MLS Playoff Preview: LA Galaxy vs Chivas USA

The Super Clasico will play out in the MLS postseason for the first time as Chivas USA will host the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Who: Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Chivas USA
What: Western Conference semifinal, first leg
When: 5:00 EST, Sunday, November 1, 2009
Where: Home Depot Center, Carson, Calif.
TV: ESPN2

The Gist:


The Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas USA have met at least three times a year since 2005 but aside from regional bragging rights, none of the games had much meaning beyond three points in the standings.

That will soon change. The Galaxy and Chivas USA will meet for all the marbles this time around, and Sunday's first leg will be the start of the do-or-die series. Chivas USA will "host" the first leg but the only impact that will have on the match is what benches the teams will sit on.

If the first-ever Super Clasico playoff series plays out like the first five years of the teams' Clasico history, the Galaxy will enjoy a comfortable series against a rival that has not had much success against them. Chivas USA have won three meetings against the Galaxy, none since late in the 2007 season. The Galaxy, meanwhile, have won 10 of their meetings and have claimed four of the five season series between the two teams.

The Galaxy, however, have actually been forced to watch Chivas USA enjoy success since 2005. After winning the double in '05, the Galaxy have failed to reach the playoffs three straight seasons while Chivas USA have been in the playoffs every year since. Still, the Galaxy are no strangers to the MLS playoffs. The Galaxy, after all, appeared in six of the first 10 MLS Cup finals, winning twice.

This year's team captured the Western Conference for the very reason the club failed to reach the postseason the last two seasons. Defense was the Galaxy's strength as the club allowed just 31 goals this year - fully half of the goals the team surrendered in 2008.

Chivas USA, meanwhile, also did well to play defense this year as well and allowed the same number of goals as the Galaxy. The club's Achilles heel this year was their offense. Chivas USA managed to score just 34 goals, the second-lowest figure among playoff teams. Worse, the club did not score more than two goals in one game all season.

In their three meetings, the Galaxy's defense dominated. The first scoreline was 0-0 but the Galaxy took games two and three by 1-0 scores. Chivas USA's last win over the Galaxy was a 3-0 score in September 2007, when the Galaxy's injury-riddled side could do little to stop the then-Western Conference frontrunners.

Players To Watch

Los Angeles: Landon Donovan. The Galaxy's perennial Most Valuable Player, Donovan plays his best in big games. Unfortunately, the Galaxy have not had many of them since winning MLS Cup '05. Donovan has done well against Chivas USA in his career and has done well to get up for games against his team's biggest rivals. Sunday should be no different for Donovan.

Chivas USA: Sacha Kljestan. When Kljestan is on his game, Chivas USA are a far more dangerous team. Unfortunately, Kljestan has had a fall from grace in 2009. Kljestan matched his goal output from 2008 with five goals but his assists fell way off. Kljestan had just three assists, compared to seven a year ago and 13 in 2007. Still, Kljestan can erase a bad season with a pair of strong and productive games against the Galaxy.

Prediction:
The Galaxy extend their mastery over Chivas USA to the MLS postseason with a 1-0 win.

Luis Bueno, Goal.com

For more playoff coverage visit Goal.com's MLS page.