After the first Honda Súper Clásico of 2006, the Los Angeles Galaxy are still unbeaten and untied all-time against Chivas USA. But Saturday's victory was far different from the five victories the Galaxy secured last season.
The Galaxy were forced to come from behind to snatch the victory away from a much-improved Chivas USA side. Ante Razov opened the scoring early in the second half for Chivas USA, who were the home team, and ignited the crowd. Chivas put the Galaxy under relentless pressure for about 20 minutes, but couldn't extend their lead.
The lack of a second strike cost Chivas as Landon Donovan and Cornell Glen hooked up twice in the game's final minutes to steal a win for the Galaxy.
The game started out with the boys from Victoria Street dominating the run of play. Recently acquired striker Cornell Glen saw numerous chances wasted in the opening half, and it looked as though the Galaxy were on pace for another disappointing result due to poor finishing.
"It always (feels bad) when you miss early chances," said Glen, who went from goat to hero in a blink of an eye. "If I didn't score, the guys might be kicking my butt right now. As I said, it was a team effort. The guys weren't yelling at me. They were telling me to keep going."
Glen just couldn't seem to find the composure required in front of the net in the opening 45 minutes, and went into the locker room a bit demoralized. It was his teammates that lifted him up during the intermission.
"I like the way Cornell Glen finished his chances in the second half. He was very down on himself at halftime and the guys picked him up," said Galaxy coach Steve Sampson after the game. "He wanted to make a statement in the second half and I think he did."
The Galaxy didn't get their equalizer until the 84th minute. A long throw-in from the left flank was knocked straight up in the air where Landon Donovan won a header. He sent it back into the middle where Glen was got lost in the confusion. Glen slipped the ball into the back of the net, and set the table for the dramatic finish.
With seven minutes of stoppage time, the Galaxy took advantage of the added time. Donovan made a long run through the midfield, and picked out Glen with a cross. Glen hit a first-time shot into the side netting to give the Galaxy the win.
"I looked up and (Glen) was kind of fading away. So I just tried to put it in a good spot and he finished it," said Donovan. "I don't know if he meant to, but he finished it."
Unlike last season, it was stoppage time that fell in favor of the Galaxy. A number of times last season, the Galaxy saw games slip away in added time. Freddy Adu stole a win for D.C. United last season in stoppage time, and Taylor Twellman earned the Revolution a tie, also in stoppage time. Both games were played at The Home Depot Center as well.
But Saturday, on what the Galaxy still consider to be their field, the Galaxy was the team coming up with late heroics.
"It seems like we gave up a goal every time we were late in a game here at home," said Donovan about the larger than normal amount of stoppage time in Saturday's second half. "Realistically though, the half should be 45 minutes. Six, seven, or eight minutes were taken away from us, so it was fair."
What shouldn't be lost in the final result is the fact that the rivalry between the two teams is getting a bit closer on the pitch. Chivas held their first-ever lead against the Galaxy, and the sellout crowd created an atmosphere unlike any regularly seen around the league. Even though it was a partisan Chivas crowd, Sampson felt the passion in the stands was beneficial to both teams.
"The atmosphere was phenomenal tonight. I think the Chivas fans were incredible, the Galaxy fans with their flags and their chants -- I felt like I was in Europe or South America," he said. "This is the kind of atmosphere this league has been waiting for. It was truly impressive."
What's even more impressive is the 6-0 record in all competitions the Galaxy now hold over their in-stadium rivals. Maintaining that dominance is the only motivation the Galaxy need heading into the Súper Clásico matches.
"We want Chivas to know this is our home ground, and you're not going to come here and beat us here," said Glen, who got his first taste of the L.A. derby after his trade from Colorado last week. "This is a championship bunch of guys, who just keep fighting till the end."