Los Angeles Soccer: Galaxy

GALAXY: An awful end extends skid

May, 23, 2012

CARSON -- The Galaxy couldn't have felt much better about things as the clock hit 75 minutes Wednesday night: Their best performance of the season had been rewarded with a two-goal lead, and although they were down to 10 men, they were in control. Hold on another 15 minutes, plus a few more in stoppage, and they'd have their first victory in a month.

But in a season in which nearly everything that can go wrong has, L.A. found a new, most devastating way to fall, surrendering three goals over the final 20 minutes -- the last deep in stoppage -- to drop its fourth game in the last five, a 3-2 defeat to the San Jose Earthquakes that left a lot of heads shaking.

Alan Gordon's header in the 94th minute delivered the knockout blow, handing the Galaxy their seventh league defeat, extending their winless streak to six games and leaving them in the Western Conference basement, 16 points off the lead.

“We played awful well tonight not to get something out of this game. It's a shame,” noted Galaxy coach Bruce Arena. “You make your own breaks, and tonight we were in position to get three points and really turned that game over.”

Bell Gardens' Hector Jimenez, making just his second MLS start, third league appearance and 2012 debut, scored a fine goal in the third minute to give L.A. an advantage but was sent off for a studs-up challenge on Steven Beitashour in the 59th minute, and the Galaxy (3-7-2, 11 points) -- dominant to that point -- watched everything change in a matter of minutes.

First, they doubled their lead, with Mike Magee taking a pass on the break from David Beckham, then beating Quakes defender Jason Hernandez and stepping past goalkeeper Jon Busch to fire into the goal's ceiling in the 73rd minute.

Three minutes later, Yorba Linda's Steven Lenhart got one back for San Jose, a near-post header from Marvin Chavez's corner kick, and the Quakes were on the front foot the rest of the way.

“We're ahead 2-0, I don't know how many minutes left,” Arena said. “Really a poor tactical approach on our behalf. We shouldn't get beat on a restart for a goal. That let them back in the game. And we can't lose the ball in our defensive half. We have to play the ball up the field, we have to pull in collectively as a group and defend with our 10 players and play the game out, get the three points and go home.”

Khari Stephenson tied the score in the 82nd minute, converting a penalty kick after Beckham handled the ball while leaping to block a drive by Hernandez. A turnover led to the winner, with Hernandez again pumping the ball into the box and Gordon, who scored equalizers in the 88th and 90th minutes of San Jose's last two games, escaped Sean Franklin's mark and soared above A.J. DeLaGarza to nod it into the net.

“I just was following up the play,” said Gordon, who played for the Galaxy from 2004 through 2010. “I think there may have been a little bit of hesitation on their part, and I was just seeing the play through. They hesitated, I didn't, I finished it. Forwards get lucky sometimes. I got lucky. Who cares? I put it in, end of story, period.”

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MLS Power Rankings: Open horizon

May, 23, 2012
Major League Soccer has a heavy slate this week before heading into a two-week break to accommodate FIFA's international schedule and the start of summer qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.

MLS clubs won't be off. The 16 U.S. teams in the league enter the U.S. Open Cup with next week's third-round games, and those that win will play again on June 5.

The importance of America's oldest soccer tournament depends on the club. It's a priority for the Seattle Sounders, who have won the last three titles. Chicago Fire, a finalist last year, needs one more triumph to match the record, five. The New York Red Bulls couldn't care less: Hans Backe sent a reserve team, with an assistant coach, to play the Chicago Fire in last year's quarterfinals.

The Galaxy have won the tournament twice, in 2001 and 2005, lost in two finals and fallen at Seattle in the quarterfinals the past two years. Chivas USA, which could meet the Galaxy in a fourth-round game June 5, has lost its Open Cup opener every year except 2010, when it dropped a semifinal game at Seattle.

The Open Cup dates to 1913, but the modern era began with MLS's arrival in 1996. Since then, only one non-MLS club has won the title -- the Rochester Raging Rhinos in 1999 -- and all but three finals have pitted MLS clubs.

Eight MLS clubs have won the trophy:
  • D.C. United: 1996, 2008
  • FC Dallas: 1997 (as the Dallas Burn)
  • Chicago Fire: 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006
  • Galaxy: 2001, 2005
  • Columbus Crew: 2002
  • Sporting Kansas City: 2004 (as the Kansas City Wizards)
  • New England Revolution: 2007
  • Seattle Sounders: 2009, 2010, 2011

Here are this week's power rankings:

1. REAL SALT LAKE (8-3-2, 26 points), Last Week: 1
Week 11:
Latest: RSL uses respite to get healthy, gets more time off after taking on Jason Kreis' original club.
U.S. Open Cup assignment: Tuesday vs. Minnesota Stars (NASL), 6 p.m.
Next: Saturday vs. FC Dallas, 6 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).

2. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (7-2-2, 23 points), LW: 2
Week 11:
Fredy Montero's last-minute strike leaves absorbing Cascadia Cup clash at Vancouver tied at 2-2.
Latest: Vancouver playmaker Davide Chiumiento's take on the Sounders? “They are a good team, but, really, players on [Seattle], they think they are better than everybody and, personally, I think they have a couple of good guys, but nothing special. They play like they already won the league, or like they've played I don't know where. They are good, but not better than we are.”
U.S. Open Cup assignment: Tuesday vs. Atlanta Silverbacks (NASL) at Tukwila, Wash., 7 p.m.
Next: Wednesday vs. Columbus, 7 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Saturday vs. Chivas USA at Home Depot Center, 7:30 p.m. (Fox Sports West and KWHY/Channel 22).

3. NEW YORK RED BULLS (8-3-1, 25 points), LW: 3
Week 11:
Dane Richards provides the winner as Red Bulls win fifth in a row and become first MLS club to beat Impact in Montreal.
Latest: Wilman Conde ready to return from groin injury, looking to get past arrest for allegedly assaulting a police officer.
U.S. Open Cup assignment: Tuesday at Charleston Battery (USL Pro), 4:30 p.m.
Next: Wednesday vs. Chivas USA, 4 p.m. (Univision Deportes).

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OPEN CUP: Fourth-round SuperClasico?

May, 23, 2012

Ready for another Galaxy-Chivas USA showdown? If both clubs win their U.S. Open Cup openers next week, it will happen.

U.S. Soccer's fourth-round pairings are out, and the Galaxy and Chivas are set to meet June 5 at Home Depot Center, as long as both advance. Chivas faces Premier Development League power Ventura County Fusion in a third-round game Tuesday night at Ventura College, and the Galaxy meet the Carolina RailHawks, from the second-division North American Soccer League, in Cary, N.C.

If it's the Galaxy against the Fusion, it will be played at HDC. If Carolina beats L.A., the fourth-round game will be in Cary.

Major League Soccer clubs enter the country's oldest soccer competition -- the initial games were played in 1913 -- in the third round. Ventura County has won twice in overtime, ousting USL Pro side L.A. Blues on Tuesday evening, to advance to the final 32.

The Galaxy and Chivas have played once before in the Open Cup, with L.A. cruising to a 5-2 fourth-round victory at HDC's Track and Field Stadium en route to the 2005 title. Goal scorers for the Galaxy included Cobi Jones, Landon Donovan and Herculez Gomez.

The pairing was expected. Rather than a blind draw, U.S. Soccer regionalizes pairings to cut down on travel costs.

Thousand Oaks' Cal FC, a U.S. Adult Soccer Association side coached by Eric Wynalda, would play three-time defending champion Seattle Sounders in Tukwila, Wash., if it beats the Portland Timbers in the third round. No site has been determined if Cal FC and the Atlanta Silverbacks, who meet the Sounders next week, both pull off upsets.

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OPEN CUP: Wynalda's club pulls an upset

May, 22, 2012

Eric Wynalda put together a team with a simple, perhaps unachievable goal: win the U.S. Open Cup.

Thousand Oaks' Cal FC took another step toward that Tuesday night, routing USL Pro side Wilmington Hammerheads, 4-0, in North Carolina to advance to the third round of the nation's oldest soccer competition, in which it will face Major League opposition.

Danny Barrera scored twice from assists by his brother, Diego, and the U.S. Adult Soccer Association side earned a date next week with the Portland Timbers.

Wynalda, an American soccer legend and first-ballot National Soccer Hall of Famer from Westlake Village, was on hand to guide Cal FC after missing last week's first-round win over Premier Development League champion Kitsap Pumas while he was in Munich preparing for Fox's coverage of the UEFA Champions League final. Wynalda is a studio analyst on Fox soccer broadcasts.

“Tonight was a good demonstration of what the guys are capable of, at times good and bad,” Wynalda told the Wilmington (N.C.) StarNews. “All in all, I'm very happy with them. I think they've come together remarkably, in a very short span of time.”

The Barrera brothers hooked up in the 25th and 57th minutes, the first on a corner kick. Former Real Salt Lake forward Artur Aghasyan made it 2-0 in the 35th and Pedro Ferreira-Mendes added another on a 79th-minute free kick.

The game in Portland will be played next Wednesday.

In the other East Coast game involving a local team:

Carolina RailHawks 6, PSA Elite (Irvine) 0: The Galaxy is headed to North Carolina after the RailHawks, from the second-tier North American Soccer League, crushed the USASA Region IV champs in Cary, N.C. Carolina will be home for next Tuesday's third-round clash against the reigning MLS champion.

Brian Shriver scored a club-record six goals, with a first-half hat trick, to lead the Railhawks. Zack Schilawski and Amir Lowery also tallied for Carolina.

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GALAXY: No Donovan, Keane? No excuses

May, 22, 2012

David BeckhamVictor Decolongon/Getty ImagesDavid Beckham says the Galaxy need to change their effort if they expect to turn around what has been a dismal season.

CARSON -- David Beckham knows what the Galaxy needs to do to turn around this disaster of a season and start a steady climb toward their rightful place among Major League Soccer's trophy contenders.

“We're champions,” he said on the eve of Wednesday night's Home Depot Center showdown with the San Jose Earthquakes. “And we need to start playing and walking on the field like champions, instead of walking on the field thinking because we're champions, we just have to turn up.”

It's different phrasing, but the sentiment hasn't changed over 11 weeks. L.A. started poorly and, but for moments here and halves there, have continued to play far below its standard. The Galaxy (3-6-2) already have lost more MLS games than all of last season and sit at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, 15 points -- five victories -- off the lead.

The Galaxy have two more matches before the league takes two weekends off for international fixture dates, and if they're going to start righting things before then, they'll have to do so without captain Landon Donovan and star striker Robbie Keane, who are away until mid-June -- perhaps later for Keane -- with their national teams.

What that means, exactly, is hard to say. Keane has not played well and is dealing with a hamstring injury that would have kept him out of Wednesday's game regardless. Donovan has been up and down, not to his usual level.

Head coach Bruce Arena took a sly swipe their way when discussing San Jose forward Chris Wondolowski, MLS's goals leader, who is with Donovan in the U.S. national team camp in Orlando, Fla. Asked how much his absence might affect the Earthquakes, Arena said: “He's a good player, and he's been playing well. If you have good players that aren't playing well and you're losing, perhaps it's not as much.”

He then was asked whether his team will miss Donovan and Keane.

“It hasn't the last five games or so,” Arena said. “I mean, when you haven't done well and you lose a player, you can't be crying about it. ... No one questions the quality of Robbie and Landon, but we don't have any results to show it's going to be a loss we can't overcome.”

Defender Todd Dunivant says he thinks it's not necessarily a negative, that the Galaxy will have to be more proactive without their stars.

“Guys are going to have to step up to the plate,” he said. “We need that kind of responsibility to be put on other players, and everyone on this team needs to step it up a little bit. It's not one or two guys need to pick up their game, it's everybody needs to raise their game.

“Sometimes having absences like this help you because guys have to step up and the responsibility is put on them.”

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GALAXY: Saunders' return is a big plus

May, 22, 2012

CARSON -- Josh Saunders wasn't going to sneak quietly back onto the field for the Galaxy. His teammates made sure of that, welcoming him warmly into training again after 3½ weeks away in Major League Soccer's substance abuse treatment program -- and teasing him, of course, about the time off.

“He looks great,” David Beckham said Tuesday after Saunders' second on-field session since he left the team April 27. “He's straight back into it. He's had a bit of stick [from his teammates] for having a few weeks off, but it's good to have him back. It's important for him to get back with the players and team and his friends, and he seems happy.”

Saunders isn't yet eligible to play -- he's still in the program, returning to the facility each day from Home Depot Center -- and there's no timeline for his return, but reintegrating with the group, in the locker room and on the training field, is an important step in his recovery.

It's stress, not, as widely speculated, drugs or alcohol that sent the 31-year-old goalkeeper into MLS's Substance Abuse and Behavioral Program, Saunders said in a brief exchange with media Tuesday.

“I was putting myself under a lot of pressure. I just needed to step away ...,” he said. “I was under some stress, had some family issues, wanted to deal with them on my own. We're humans. We have a life outside of soccer, and people forget that. I'm just happy to be in the state that I'm in now.”

So are his teammates.

“It's like he was never gone,” defender Todd Dunivant said. “He addressed the team, and we welcomed him back with open arms, and we'll support him all along the way. ...

“[It's vital for him] to be around the locker room, around the guys, get the banter and all that kind of stuff that we get on a daily basis. If you don't have that, it's difficult. You can see that with guys that go out for long injuries and come back, they miss that. Just to welcome back and give him jabs a little bit again and get him in with the jokes again makes a difference.”

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Donovan: 'I have to go and prove myself'

May, 21, 2012

CARSON -- Landon Donovan trained with the U.S. national team Monday for the first time in nearly nine months after joining preparations in Orlando, Fla., for three friendlies -- the first Saturday against Scotland -- in advance of next month's World Cup qualifying openers.

The Galaxy's captain and, with Clint Dempsey, the Americans' biggest star (he's played in three World Cups, has 138 caps and is the all-time U.S. leader for goals (46) and assists (47)) has played just twice under Jurgen Klinsmann, in the German legend's debut with the national team last August against Mexico and in the Home Depot Center loss to Costa Rica last September. He has since pulled out of three camps or trips because of injury or illness, most recently missing February's victory over Italy in Genoa.

Donovan, at 30, remains pivotal for the U.S. even as Dempsey's star ascends -- the Texan scored 23 goals in 46 games for English Premier League side Fulham this season -- and a new generation of talent, including Chivas USA newcomer Juan Agudelo and several German-born sons of servicemen, begin to assert themselves.

He's one of 27 players on Klinsmann's initial list for games against the Scots in Jacksonville, Fla., Brazil on May 30 in Landover, Md., Canada on June 3 in Toronto and qualifiers for 2014 against Antigua & Barbuda on June 8 in Tampa, Fla., and at Guatemala on June 12. That list will be trimmed Friday to 23, and Donovan is certain to be on that list.

Donovan spoke to media about his return to the national team following the Galaxy's SuperClasico defeat Saturday night to Chivas USA:

You haven't spent much time in camp with Klinsmann.

Yeah, it’s been a long time for me and I’m excited. I’m excited to see the guys, and excited to be a part of what they’re doing there. It’s hard when you’re looking from the outside in for so long, so I’m excited to get there. As always when you do this, you’ve got to refocus quickly and be ready, because no one cares what’s happening here [with the Galaxy's struggles], they care what’s happening there.

You've been away so long. Will it require some reintegration?

I know Jurgen well, and I know the guys well, so it’s not -- there’s maybe a few new players but I think it’ll be pretty seamless, and it’s not my first camp, so I’ll be fine. But it’ll take a little bit of time to understand ideas and philosophy and those kind of things, but I think Jurgen and I see the game the same way, so it’ll be pretty easy.

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CHIVAS: Agudelo has room to grow

May, 20, 2012

Juan AgudeloVictor Decolongon/Getty ImagesJuan Agudelo of Chivas USA looks to lead a pass to teammate Jose Erick Correa as A.J. DeLaGarza of the Galaxy tries to defend the play in the first half. Chivas USA defeated the Galaxy 1-0.

CARSON -- Chivas USA has had its share of legends and big stars, most of them -- Claudio Suarez, Ramon Ramirez, even Francisco Palencia and John O'Brien -- near or at the ends of their careers.

Juan Agudelo is something else: a superstar in the making, and his Goats debut in Saturday night's SuperClasico victory over the Galaxy could go down as one of the signpost events in club annals.

The tall, talented teen with bearing beyond his years did nothing spectacular and a whole lot of things really well in his first start with his new club, playing a key role setting up Jose Erik Correa's penalty kick and showing flashes of what he, Correa and Miller Bolaños -- and Juan Pablo Angel, too, perhaps -- can achieve once they're all on the same page.

“I think Juan had a good debut,” coach Robin Fraser said after Chivas (4-6-1) ended a 12-game winless streak against their cross-stadium rival. “He’s a player that wants to be on the ball, he’s a very attack-minded player, he’s got very solid feet. You can see there are times when he wanted the ball, he wants to run at people, he wants to make things happen, and I thought his impact was immediate.

“We’re extremely excited to have him, and we’re extremely excited to watch him develop. He’s very special.”

Agudelo, whose excitement was such that he experienced “probably one of the most anxious feelings that I’ve had before a game ever,” was happy with how things went:

  • “I felt great, and at times I wasn't able to find the spacing [with teammates] that I wanted, but I think that it's something that over time I'll improve, knowing the positions and holes with this team.”
  • “[My chemistry with Correa] is going great. We're both Colombian, so we speak Spanish to each other, and I think that connection of South America is working.”
  • “[Fraser's system] suits me really well. Just with my height [6-foot-1], I felt like crosses to the far post, I was dangerous then, and I think that moving forward that could be something that could help us get some goals. I feel like sometimes with my heading that I’ve got more power on it, and in this type of system, I love it that the coach encourages freedom.”

The 19-year-old, Colombian born striker, who departed Sunday to join the U.S. national team's Florida preparations for next month's start to its World Cup qualifying campaign, has impressed in international play but didn't fit into the New York Red Bulls' Eurocentric approach, and his trade Thursday to Chivas has rejuventated his young career. The Goats are a far better fit stylistically, culturally and in terms of opportunities to grow.

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GALAXY: Is it time to panic yet?

May, 20, 2012

CARSON -- David Beckham noted a couple of weeks ago that there was no need for the Galaxy to panic yet, but if things didn't turn soon, that time would quickly arrive.

After Saturday night's SuperClasico loss to Chivas USA, perhaps it is time for panic.

The Galaxy (3-6-2) haven't won in their last five games, and all three of their losses in that span have been by shutout. They still don't have a clean sheet in 13 games, including the CONCACAF Champions League, after posting 22 in 46 competitive matches last year. They've surrendered the first goal 10 times and in seven of their last eight games. By the end of the day, they could be in the Western Conference cellar.

We've seen too little from Robbie Keane, Edson Buddle, Landon Donovan and Juninho -- and Keane and Donovan are leaving for awhile -- and although team defense has improved following a horrid start to the season, there remain problems -- and likely will until Omar Gonzalez returns hopefully sometime this summer.

And now the defending MLS Cup and Supporters' Shield champion has fallen behind its hated rivals in the battle for SoCal supremacy. Chivas is hotter (especially with Juan Agudelo's arrival), better defensively and steadily moving forward toward something potentially very grand.

Saturday's loss -- with Chivas dominating play in the first half but not creating much out of it, the Galaxy responding nicely in the second half, and a penalty kick with 20 minutes to go making the difference -- was another backward step for L.A.

“On the season, our record is probably not real precise in therms of how we've played,” head coach Bruce Arena said. “I think we've played better than our record indicates, but tonight the difference in the game is taking a chance. We didn't do it, and give [Chivas] credit.”

The Galaxy has played well in spurts this season, early on against Real Salt Lake, the rout of D.C. United, the second half in last week's draw at Montreal. They were swell to start the second half Saturday, creating far more dangerous chances than Chivas could -- Miller Bolaños' shot off the post and the play leading to the PK aside. If not for Dan Kennedy's 50th-minute stops on Pat Noonan's blistering shot across the face of the net and Kyle Nakazawa's rebound, L.A. wins.

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SUPERCLASICO: Chivas ends drought

May, 19, 2012

CARSON -- Chivas USA ended the most painful drought in club history Saturday night, beating its hated rival for the first time since 2007, but more than that, the Goats offered a tantalizing glimpse at what their future could look like.

Juan Agudelo, acquired in a trade Thursday from the New York Red Bulls, made a fine impression in his debut, teaming up front with Jose Erik Correa and Miller Bolaños to create an attack that, once everyone is on the same page, could lead to something very special.

The Goats dictated play most of the first half and, with new defender Danny Califf anchoring a fine backline performance, held off a resurgent Galaxy after halftime to claim a 1-0 triumph before a sellout crowd of 18,800 at Home Depot Center.

The goal came on a 72nd-minute penalty kick by Correa, who had to take it twice -- the first was waved off when Jorge Villafaña encroached before the shot -- firing both to virtually the same spot.

That's two goals Chivas (4-6-1, 13 points) has scored at home this year, both on penalties, but this one meant a lot more, giving the club its first home victory in six tries.

That it came against the Galaxy (3-6-2, 11 points) made it all the more spectacular. L.A.'s unbeaten streak against its cross-stadium rival had reached 12 games, with victories in the last five meetings and in the last six regular-season encounters.

“It's big,” said Chivas coach Robin Fraser, a former Galaxy star. “I think I underestimated the level of rivalry between the two teams when I first got here. I was surprised by the nature of the comments after our first game last year, and it was very evident that there is very little respect for this club [from the other side]. We talked a lot during the week that the only way to get respect is to go out and earn it and I thought they did a good job of that tonight.”

Chivas came closest to scoring in the first half -- Bolaños hit the base of the right post from 24 yards after stripping the ball from Juninho near midfield in the 34th minute -- and got big back-to-back saves from goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, on Pat Noonan and Kyle Nakazawa, five minutes into the second half -- and got the only goal following a rather odd play.

Oswaldo Minda, returning from a yellow-card suspension, lofted the ball into the Galaxy goalmouth, and goalkeeper Brian Perk leapt over Agudelo to knock the ball away. As both crumpled to the ground, it fell to Correa, who volleyed sharply past A.J. DeLaGarza and at former Chivas defender David Junior Lopes, who was standing on the goal line.

The ball caromed off Lopes' left arm. Referee Mark Geiger showed him the red carded and gave Chivas the spot kick.

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SUPERCLASICO: Wild week leads to this

May, 18, 2012

GalaxyVictor Decolongon/Getty Images The Galaxy celebrate a goal during a SuperClasico game against Chivas USA last October.

CARSON -- Things always are a little more intense around Home Depot Center when the SuperClasico nears, but given all that's occurred this week -- on both sides -- Saturday night's showdown might provide a respite from all the madness. Imagine that.

Ninety minutes on a patch of green, no matter how heated the atmosphere, has to be simpler than everything the Galaxy and Chivas USA are going through, what with middling form, poor results, blockbuster trades, White House visits, international call-ups and the biggest star in town's jaunts across Europe carrying a flame.

It has made for hectic preparations for a match that, rivalry aside, is vital for both teams. The Galaxy are 3-5-2, have already matched last year's loss total and are looking to end a four-game winless streak while buoyed by their performance of the second half of last week's 1-1 tie at Montreal.

Chivas is 3-6-1, has scored just six goals in 10 games, given away five points by conceding end-of-game goals, and is 0-5-0 in home matches with just one goal, on a penalty kick. The Goats are the home team for the first of three meetings this season.

“It's a little different than in some years past, because we're both struggling a little bit,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan noted. “So there's probably added meaning in that way, because we both need the points.”

L.A., a preseason favorite to repeat as champion, has only 11 points, 15 behind Western Conference (and Supporters' Shield) leader Real Salt Lake and 11 out of third place. Chivas is only a point behind, but it's also only a point out of the Western cellar.

“It's an important game in a number of ways,” Chivas coach Robin Fraser said. “Both teams are definitely looking for points. It's the rivalry, it's where we are in the table. There's a lot riding on this game.”

Fraser and the Chivas technical staff has been working overtime this week, engineering a pair of trades that, together, offer a major statement of purpose. They brought in 19-year-old striker Juan Agudelo, the most prized young player in America, and then to replace defender Heath Pearce -- who went to New York for Agudelo -- they acquired veteran center back Danny Califf from Philadelphia (for winger Michael Lahoud). It appears to be a move forward up front and in the back.

It will be the first Clasico for Califf, who spent his first five seasons with the Galaxy but was gone before Chivas debuted. First Clasico on the Goats side for his former L.A. teammate, former Galaxy captain Peter Vagenas, too.

“I peaked my head in [the Galaxy locker room] today and told them I'm excited,” said Vagenas, who signed with Chivas during preseason. “This is obviously a special game for me. I've never hidden my emotion for the [Galaxy] and everything that goes on there, but nobody wants to beat the Galaxy more than I do Saturday night.”

If Chivas pulls it out, there will be blame to go around.

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GALAXY: Leonardo activated, Boyens to DL

May, 18, 2012
CARSON -- About 24 hours after Bruce Arena told media that Leonardo would be activated “soon” while refusing to be more specific, the Galaxy made the move, on Friday pulling the 24-year-old Brazilian defender off the MLS Disabled List.

He'll be available for Saturday's SuperClasico against Chivas USA at Home Depot Center.

Joe Scarnici/Getty ImagesGalaxy defender Leonardo was removed from the MLS Disabled List and will available for Saturday's game.

Fellow center back Andrew Boyens was placed on the DL with a sports hernia, will undergo surgery next week and faces four to six weeks on the sidelines, the club reported. The New Zealander must sit out at least six games before he can be activated for Major League Soccer play -- he could return for the June 30 game at San Jose -- although he can participate in U.S. Open Cup and MLS Reserve League matches and friendlies.

Leonardo, who was acquired in February on a free transfer after spending the last two seasons with L.A. on loan from São Paulo, started the first seven games last season before shredding several knee ligaments -- including the anterior cruciate and lateral collateral -- in the closing moments of a mid-April victory in Chicago last season. He underwent a second surgery late last fall and has been working steadily the past couple of months to return.

He made appearances in two reserve matches, going 11 minutes in an April 24 victory over the L.A. Blues and all of the first half in last week's MLS Reserve League tie with San Jose.

Arena on Thursday was asked why the Galaxy hadn't looked into acquiring veteran center back Danny Califf, who began his pro career with the club and was traded to Chivas USA.

“We have two center backs [Leonardo and Omar Gonzalez] coming back [from injuries] that are pretty good center backs,” Arena said. “Last thing we need is to fill the locker room with more center backs. We have two good ones that are hopefully going to play this year.”

He added that “Leonardo's real close” but wouldn't specify a target date to pull him off the DL, saying only that it would happen “soon.”

Leonardo has made 17 MLS starts while with the Galaxy, seven of them in shutouts.

Boyens, 28, was acquired in December's re-entry draft from Chivas USA, started three of the first five games of the season and has seen only reserve-team action since. He last played in last week's reserve game against San Jose.

GALAXY: Del Piero coming, says report

May, 18, 2012
The Alessandro Del Piero-to-the-Galaxy rumors have been around for some time -- the Italian legend mentioned it himself a year ago -- but now there's a report that a deal is done and he'll be arriving once the summer transfer window opens June 27.

Montreal-based website Soccer Plus cited “sources close to negotiations” in reporting Thursday that Del Piero, a 37-year-old striker leaving Juventus after 19 years, will join L.A. and finish his career in the United States.

The Galaxy, which does not comment on potential acquisitions, has all three of its Designated Player spots filled -- by David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane -- so Del Piero's arrival would require that one of them departs or that his salary comes in below the DP figure of $350,000, whether through contractual mechanisms or if paid down by allocation money. L.A. would have to discard at least one player to open a roster spot and free up cap space.

Del Piero is a beloved and universally respected figure in the Italian game -- he scored a club-record 289 goals in 704 games for Turin-based Juventus and played 91 times for Italy's national team, scoring 27 goals and winning the 2006 World Cup, in which he netted the second overtime goal to beat Germany in the semifinals -- and he's made no secret of his desire to play in America.

He told Sky Sport 24 in May 2011 that he might join the Galaxy when his Juve contract ran out this year.

“It could be a possibility,” Del Piero said. “It's a country I love so much, and I could also take the opportunity to go see the Lakers.”

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SUPERCLASICO: Best rivalry? Let's ask

May, 17, 2012

Barca vs RealLluis Gene/AFP/Getty ImagesThe 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.”

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SUPERCLASICO: Becks' focus: a flame

May, 16, 2012
The Galaxy, its White House visit now a warm memory, and Chivas USA, still making sense of an is-it-done-or-not trade for Danny Califf, have a big date this weekend: the first of three SuperClasico meetings at Home Depot Center.

That's the focus for everyone, except David Beckham.

The English star has Olympic duty to complete first, so he'll miss training Thursday and the news conference home team Chivas is trying to put together for Friday to help deliver to the U.K. the Olympic flame.

Beckham, who played an ambassadorial role as London pursued the 2012 Summer Games, has traveled to Athens, Greece, to join dignitaries for a torch handoff ceremony Thursday. He will join other Olympic officials, including Princess Anne, in flying the torch to Britain on Friday. A 70-day relay involving some 8,000 people will carry the flame from Cornwall, in the south of England, to the Shetland Islands, off Scotland's north coast.

Beckham, whose jaunt was unveiled Wednesday, will then fly home to Los Angeles for Saturday's game against the Goats. It's the first of three games in eight days for the Galaxy, and he rarely plays in all three matches in such situation, so he could be held out of the Chivas match after so much travel. He has played following long trips before, and if he was going to miss a match in the tight span, the May 26 clash at Houston seems likeliest.