CARSON -- Michael Umaña has been gone all of a few weeks, so his homecoming, as it were, doesn't really register.
Don't tell that to the former Chivas USA defender, who was dumped in a money move this offseason and found new employment in Guatemala. Now he's back for one last kick at Home Depot Center, and he's really looking forward to it.
“I feel very happy to come to my field, where I played for two years,” the Costa Rican center back said on the eve of Saturday's Doble Clasico Centroamericano, a friendly doubleheader matching Guatemalan and Salvadoran archrivals. “Visiting L.A. is always special for me. I've had a lot of happiness and sadness in my soccer career -- more happiness -- and I'm very happy to come back to L.A.”
Umaña, who leads Comunicaciones against Guatemala City rival Municipal in the 6 p.m. opener, didn't want to leave, but as Chivas coach Robin Fraser continues in his rebuild, the center back's $138,000 base salary, his figure last year, priced him beyond the budget.
“I was very happy [at Chivas],” said Umaña, who started 49 games in two seasons with the Goats. “It was very difficult to leave. It was a technical decision, by management, so you can't do much about it.”
Umaña, 29, hooked on with Comunicaciones, which has won 24 Guatemalan championships, second only to Municipal's 29. (One or the other has won the past five titles.) Their rivalry is sort of like Galaxy-Chivas -- Umaña knows both sides; he was with L.A. when it won the 2005 MLS Cup crown -- except this one's really heated.
Consider Wednesday's meeting, one that counted in the Liga Nacional standings. Comunicaciones claimed a 2-0 victory -- with all-time MLS goals leader Jeff Cunningham scoring in his club debut -- in a match that featured 12 yellow cards, three red cards and one post-whistle brawl. The clubs then climbed onto the same plane for the flight to Los Angeles.
“It's a very intense game. The rivalry is very big,” Umaña said. “Pretty much the entire country stops when we play. All Clasicos are meant to be won -- there are no friendlies in Clasicos.”
How was the flight?
“It was easy,” he said. “They were on their side of the plane, and we were on ours.”
Might be worth noting that the clubs' managers -- Ronald Gonzalez for Comunicaciones and Javier Delgado of Municipal -- are former Costa Rican national teammates.
Salvadoran rivals Aguila and FAS face off in the 8 p.m. game. They, too, have won the most national titles -- FAS, from Santa Ana, has 17, and San Miguel-based Aguila has 14 -- but both have been supplanted by Isidro Metapan and mainstay Luis Angel Firpo in recent years. Both are well off the pace after five games, with just two wins between them (and both of those belong to Aguila).
Aguila has a former Chivas USA player, too: midfielder Osael Romero, who was with the Goats in 2010.