Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Return of a rival

Back in 2005, the Galaxy and Chivas USA became rivals. However, that year the rivalry wasn't much of a rivalry. The Galaxy had their way with their expansion co-tenants as Chivas recorded one of the worst seasons in MLS history.

The Galaxy's main rivals then were the San Jose Earthquakes. The so-called California Clasico preceded the Super Clasico in more ways than one. The California Clasico was built up like most rivalries are - over time. The two teams met often enough, both in regular-season and postseason matches, that the teams had a genuine dislike of each other. Throw in the natural rivalry between teams from Southern California and Northern California and you get what was one of the better rivalries in MLS.

Several years have passed and things are a bit different. Chivas USA and the Galaxy have built up a good rivalry as Chivas USA finally started to figure the Galaxy out and evolve into a solid MLS team. The Galaxy has struggled since San Jose left the league - in fact the only two seasons in which the Galaxy has not participated in the postseason are the only two seasons San Jose has not been a member of the league. San Jose of course moved to Houston, became the Dynamo and figured out the postseason, winning two out of two MLS Cups.

Now that San Jose is back in MLS, I'm anxious to see how the rivalry plays out again. We'll all find out soon enough what the California Clasico will look like when San Jose visits the Galaxy on Thursday.

In some ways, I think the two teams won't generate that spark you get from a rivalry game. The 'Quakes are pretty much an expansion team, though their history and records stand intact from 1996-2005. Technically, the Galaxy has 21 wins, the 'Quakes have 12 and there have been five draws in the clubs' regular-season history. Then there were the two most memorable postseason meetings, MLS Cup '01 and the 2003 Western Conference Semifinal series, both won by San Jose, as well as the 2005 Western Conference Semifinal in which the Galaxy stunned the 'Quakes en route to the MLS Cup crown.

Still, part of me thinks the teams will pick up where they left off. There is plenty of intrigue with this match. Frank Yallop and Joe Cannon, two grand figures from San Jose lore, are back with the 'Quakes after having spent time with the Galaxy in recent years. That alone stands to draw reaction from Galaxy fans. I can't imagine both not having an extra incentive from this game, aside from the already grand responsibility they likely feel of starting San Jose's season off on the right foot.

I think it's great to have San Jose back and this new version of the California Clasico will once again have some life. I hope that the rivalry is as strong now as it was in the past, but I don't think it will be right off the bat. Hopefully, though, I'm wrong about the last part.


Marmaduke said...

I think part of the fun of the SJ-LA games was that a fair number of the players had played for both clubs. And the SJ fans really had fun hating Donovan for defecting. And even though most of the guys Landon played with in SJ are now in Texas, the fans won't care. He'll get booed the next time they play up north.

Interestingly, in their their two short years in Houston, the former Earthquakes have built up a little rivalry with Chivas USA. This is mostly because these two have been battling for the western title most of that time, but if they keep at it, it might overshadow the intra-state Houston-Dallas rivalry that they keep hyping. It had some fire, but Ruiz was really the focal point of most of it. Ruiz v Robinson, Ruiz v Serioux, Ruiz v Clark's boot...

Chip said...

If the poll over at is any indication, the rivalry is still foremost in the minds of Quakes fans.