Iconic MLS Moments: The first Galaxy-Chivas SuperClasico

The inaugural SuperClasico was an impassioned turf war

Superclasico

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In the Beginning

On April 23, 2005,
the LA Galaxy and Chivas USA engaged in the first-ever Honda SuperClasico and
changed the definition of the word “rivalry” in MLS circles forever. No longer was
it limited to heated contests involving clubs from different cities, different
states, and sometimes even different time zones. The Galaxy and Chivas USA were
not only in the same town, but they shared the Home Depot Center.

MLS allegiances in Southern
California were forever fractured.

“Latins vs. Gringos”

Chivas USA joined the league in 2005 proudly flying the Mexican and Hispanic banner. The roster was stocked with Mexicans, including legend Ramón Ramírez, and Central Americans like Costa Rican Douglas Sequeira. A few months before the club debuted, owner Jorge Vergara set the stage for the LA derby, using his
typically charged language.

“It’s the Latins versus the
Gringos,” he famously told The LA Times
Magazine.
“And we're going to win."

The brash rhetoric coming from
the Red-and-White side, as well as the sudden cohabitation at the HDC, got under
the skin of some of the Galaxy players. Defender Chris Albright, now with the
New York Red Bulls, viewed Chivas’ arrival as something of an encroachment
upon the Galaxy’s territory.

“Chivas kind of had this
foreign presence to them and you kind of wanted to let them know whose building
it was,” he recalls recently to MLSsoccer.com. “There was a sense of pride that
this was the home that the Galaxy built and these guys were just renters and we
were going to show them that we were the better team.”

Set It Off

It was with this tinge of tension
in the air that the two sides met for the first time, on April 23, 2005, under a clear California
night.

“The anticipation heading into
that first game was pretty special,” then-Chivas USA coach Thomas Rongen says.
“There was a lot of attention, and it started the rivalry off with such great
intensity.”

While LA had always enjoyed
healthy home crowds Center, the presence of a red-and-white-striped corner
full of educated away support—the Galaxy were technically the “home” team—brought
things to a rapid boil.

To call the atmosphere on that
April night “electric” would be an understatement of the highest order as the stands
and the grassy berm at the HDC were transformed into a chanting, heaving mass
of passion.

On the field, the fans’ passion
was matched by the players.

“I always did my pregame talks
in Spanish and English,” Rongen, now the U.S. U-20 coach, recalls. “That night, I played into the
emotional side, talking up the importance of the game. But it was an easy
pregame talk, because the Mexicans on the team understood it. They wear their
emotions on their sleeve.”

From the opening minute, the
game was a full-throttle affair, with the Galaxy laying on the gas early. In
the 14th minute, Albright’s deflected shot from inside the six-yard box landed at
the feet of Cobi Jones, who buried the ball for the opening goal.

Quickly, very quickly, tempers
flared, as the newborn rivalry breathed life into itself. Both sides went into
challenges like hoplites charging into the fray.

But this was no fair fight. The
Galaxy were simply too good, too established, and they controlled the play for
the remainder of the match. 

In the 24th minute, LA captain
Peter Vagenas received a sublimely headed pass from Landon Donovan, and ran through
a trio of defenders for the second goal of the game.

The final blow came moments
later when Jovan Kirovski smashed a freekick over the wall and past a
flat-footed Brad Guzan. LA had scored three goals in less than 30 minutes, and
the Galaxy faithful were justifiably puffing out their chests. An early
second-half free kick from Ramírez gave Chivas USA a consolation goal,
but it was only that, consolation.

“Maybe we were overprepared,”
Rongen says. “We were so emotionally charged, we got away from the game
responsibilities. Our emotions got the better of us.”

Satisfaction Guaranteed

For the fans, that emotion was
what the evening was all about. They had seen both great soccer and a great
display of competitive spirit and in return they put on their own display, one
of unrivaled passion.

“No one in MLS knows what a
rivalry is until they play in that game,” says former Galaxy striker Herculez
Gomez, now with Mexican club Puebla. “It’s unlike any other game I have
experienced in MLS.”

Rongen agrees. “By far, it’s the best rivalry in MLS.”