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Thursday, May 17, 2012
SUPERCLASICO: Best rivalry? Let's ask

By Scott French

Barca vs Real
The Barcelona-Real Madrid rivalry is one of many in the world that rank at the top of the list.

CARSON -- The Galaxy and Chivas USA renew their SuperClasico rivalry Saturday night at Home Depot Center, so what better time to weigh in on the best rivalries in soccer -- in MLS and around the world.

We asked a handful of players and coaches with both teams their thoughts on what matchups are the real Clasicos. Here's what they said. There are so many classic derbies in world soccer, from Boca Juniors-River Plate (Argentina) to Inter Milan-AC Milan and Lazio-Roma (Italy), Tottenham-Arsenal and Liverpool-Everton (England) to Rangers-Celtic (Scotland), Real Madrid-Barcelona (Spain) to Galatasaray-Fenerbahçe (Turkey), America-Guadalajara (Mexico) to Red Star-Partizan (Serbia). There, that scratches the surface.

What's the best?

Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy: “The Real Madrid-Barça match has been pretty special the past few years. You don't want it to get diluted, because they play each other 12 times a year. Now that Manchester City is having their way in the English Premier League, them with Manchester City is pretty special. And I always like watching Tim Howard and Everton play against Liverpool.”

Galaxy midfielder Juninho: Brazil-Argentina.”

Chivas forward Juan Pablo Angel: Boca-River.”

Galaxy defender A.J. DeLaGarza: “There's so many out there, man. Barcelona-Real is a pretty good one, I think. I think that one's got to be the top one.”

Chivas defender Ante Jazic: Barça-Real.”

Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan: Barcelona-Madrid.”

Chivas defender James Riley: “Ooh, that's a tough one. I think Celtic-Rangers has the best history, and Boca-River Plate. I would go with Celtic-Rangers.”

Chivas midfielder Ryan Smith: Tottenham-Arsenal. What's special is that you cannot be an Arsenal supporter and step foot in Tottenham, and you can't be a Tottenham supporter and step foot in Arsenal. Obviously, with the shirt on. That's what's special about it.”

Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena: “I think years ago people would say Boca and River, but for me today it has to be Real Madrid-Barcelona. That's for me -- everyone has their own opinion. It may grow to Manchester City-Man United, Inter and AC are good, but right now I think Ream Madrid and Barcelona, because you can argue those are the two best club teams in the world.”

Chivas head coach Robin Fraser: Real Madrid-Barça.”

Galaxy forward Robbie Keane: “I've played in a few. Tottenham-Arsenal, Celtic-Rangers. It's very hard, because I'm sure every league has its own rivalry. The ones I played in, Tottenham-Arsenal was crazy, obviously Celtic-Rangers was very crazy, probably for different reasons, you know?”

Chivas forward Casey Townsend: Real Madrid-Barcelona.”

Galaxy midfielder Mike Magee: Real Madrid-Barcelona.”

Chivas midfielder Peter Vagenas: “Oh, Christ, I don't know. I can't answer that. There are places where you're divided upon religion lines -- so those are pretty intense, right? Rangers-Celtic has got to be something else from what I hear.”

Galaxy midfielder Marcelo Sarvas: “It's Madrid and Barcelona, for sure.”

Chivas forward Cesar Romero: Barcelona-Real Madrid. That's pretty much the biggest one out there.” This one's easy, right? SuperClasico. But what about Sounders-Timbers or Red Bulls-D.C. or Rapids-RSL or Fire-Revs?

Jazic: The Clasico.”

Sarvas: “I think it's Chivas and L.A.

Vagenas: “I know the best rivalry in MLS is Galaxy-Chivas.”

Donovan: “Mmmm ... probably L.A.-Chivas.”

Smith: Everyone, for me. Because I wasn't raised here. It's new compared to the leagues in Europe, but everyone is my rival here. There's no one I value more as a rival than others.”

Keane: “Obviously, the Galaxy and Chivas.”

Riley: Seattle-Portland.”

DeLaGarza: “Wow. ... So many, man. The Clasico is obviously a good one. The California Clasico [Galaxy-San Jose], another West Coast clasico [Galaxy-Seattle], so many different ones. You've got D.C.-New York, us and D.C., us and Chivas. I don't know. I would say us and Chivas is good. San Jose is a good team this year, so it will be fun to go up there twice this season.”

Fraser: “That's hard to say if you're on the outside of that. I can think of the two I've been in -- Real Salt Lake-Colorado and Galaxy-Chivas. I think they're similar. As I've come to find out, there's genuine animosity between the teams, and I think that exists with Real Salt Lake-Colorado and I've come to realize that exists here.”

Arena: “For me, I would say D.C. United and New York.”

Townsend: Chivas-Galaxy.”

Angel: “I don't know. I mean, I've only seen Chivas-L.A. I haven't seen the other ones. I hear the one up north is great, with Seattle-Portland. Haven't seen it.”

Magee: Galaxy-Chivas.”

Romero: Every game should be important. Every game is a rivalry. Every game we have to look at as a clasico.”

Kennedy: “Obviously, the Clasico we have here is pretty special. I've had a chance to play in a few of them. Exciting games, great atmosphere. ... We need to make sure we're competitive in the Clasico.”

Juninho: We and Red Bulls.” Where does your heart lie? Was the best rivalry you played in from high school or college or youth soccer? Or was it as a fan, watching the team you love against its hated archrival? Or was it one of world's great derbies?

Juninho: “The Clasico is the big clasico, you know? For us it's Red Bull.”

Fraser: “Considering they won our first two MLS Cup finals, I look back at the late '90s, Galaxy-D.C. I don't think there was a lot of animosity in that, but there was a real sense of pride. The Galaxy team played with a ton of pride, and so did D.C. United, and it produced some great games and certainly some interesting results. There was a lot of talented players on both teams and a lot of talented and proud players who took those games extremely seriously. I remember being in some of those games, looking up at the clock about 20 minutes in and saying, 'This is a great game. We're playing well, they're playing well, it's intense, guys are getting into tackles -- to win this game is going to take something special.' And I remember having that sense a lot playing against D.C. United.”

Arena: USA-Mexico.” [Arena was U.S. national team coach from 1998 through 2006.]

Donovan: U.S.-Mexico.”

Townsend: Maryland-Virginia. [Townsend played at the University of Maryland.] A lot of hard feelings between the two teams. We don't like each other, and it's always a battle.”

Magee: “I'd have to say Galaxy-Chivas. If I say anything else, I'm gonna be in trouble. I had a pretty good one growing up in soccer, too, [Chicago youth powerhouses] Sockers-Magic. When I was around, that was big, but it can't compare with Galaxy-Chivas.”

Angel: “Without a doubt, I think any player who has been involved in those types of games will tell you with no hesitation that the biggest derby in the world is Boca-River. [Angel played for River Plate.] I've been in the stands for Celtic-Rangers, Milan-Inter, nothing compares with this.”

Riley: Seattle-Portland. [Riley was with the Sounders from 2009 through last year]. That's deep-rooted. That goes back to the 1970s. That's a special, special thing to be a part of, without a doubt. So I'm looking forward to this one and being part of this one as well.”

Romero: Tigres-Monterrey, in Monterrey. [Romero played in Tigres' system.] Big game.”

DeLaGarza: “I would say Chivas. Every game is so competitive. There's bad tackles because guys are ultra-competitive in these games. You always want to show up when you're playing Chivas. So that's probably the biggest one for me.”

Jazic: As a player, it was definitely in Croatia, Hajduk Split-Dinamo Zagreb. [Jazic played for Hajduk in 1999-2000.] Those games were crazy, with tear gas and all of that stuff.”

Smith: “When I was at Leicester City on loan from Arsenal, and we beat Tottenham in the F.A. Cup. That was really sweet.” [Smith, as a “Gooner,” has a healthy distaste for Tottenham.]

Sarvas: Saprissa-Alajuelense. [Saprissa came to the Galaxy from Alajuela, in Costa Rica.] It's half the country is Alajuela and half the country is Saprissa. It's like a national day -- everything stops and they close the stores, everybody stops to watch the game. It's a full stadium, and the passion, it's a little bit more than here.”

Vagenas: “Hmmm. You know, those early years in the Galaxy when San Jose got good, that period was pretty intense.”

Keane: “I think the Celtic-Rangers one was crazy. Not for football reasons.” [Celtic is the Catholic club in Glasgow. Rangers is Protestant. It's not pretty.]

Kennedy: “As a player, it definitely would have to be this one. I grew up here, and Chivas has been very loyal to me. I'm all for this one.”