So what did we learn Sunday at the StubHub Center?
Well, we learned the Galaxy, despite going winless in its first two games, is still one of Major League Soccer’s elite teams. We learned that Chivas USA, despite losing just one of its first four games, is still a work in progress. And we learned that for Robbie Keane, the Galaxy forward born and bred in Ireland, a sunny 78-degree day is far from pleasant.
“Robbie doesn’t necessarily like these conditions,” Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena said. “This would be like burning in hell in Ireland.”
In this case the devil was in the details, with Keane’s goal in the 37th minute starting the Galaxy to a surprisingly easy 3-0 win over Chivas.
The game was as one-sided as any in the series between the StubHub roommates, with the Galaxy outshooting Chivas 19-5, controlling possession for nearly 60% of the game, completing 153 more passes and getting additional goals from Stefan Ishizaki — his first in MLS play — and Baggio Husidic.
“I suspected we were going to win a game at some point,” said Arena, whose team started the MLS season with a loss and a draw before taking a two-week break. “We do have a good team. We can have good days.”
And Chivas USA, which is facing an uncertain future, can still have bad ones. The troubled team, which hasn’t had a winning record — nor much hope — since 2009 has already been sold, repackaged and reconstituted over the last three months. So how the team and Wilmer Cabrera, the league-appointed caretaker coach, respond to Sunday’s rout could go a long way toward determining whether Chivas is heading toward a revival or a regression.
“We have not been a winning organization on or off the field. And so it’s always a worry that if, on the field, you get into a series of results that go against you, that you can slip,” team President Nelson Rodriguez said. “This is a journey and a process, and we’ve got to apply ourselves on a daily basis.”
That journey will ultimately include new ownership — the team is currently a ward of the league — new uniforms, a new name and a new home. Progress is being made on each of those fronts.
In terms of new owners, the league is negotiating with a handful of potential buyers and hopes to have a deal in place by late summer, and Rodriguez is actively seeking a sponsor for the team’s new shirt. As for a name, the league has trademarked Los Angeles SC along with a red, black and gold crest featuring a bear, star, lion and castle. And though it appears likely the team will play at least one more season in Carson, it is also considering potential homes in Pomona, Santa Ana and at Exposition Park, across from USC.
Those are all steps toward a brighter future. Sunday’s game, however, was far too reminiscent of Chivas’ dark past. A makeshift backline that included Eriq Zavaleta, a natural forward, and Andrew Jean-Baptiste, who was making his first appearance for Chivas, was carved up by the Galaxy’s midfield diamond. Ishizaki was particularly effective, notching an assist to go with his goal. Keane had a goal and an assist, and Landon Donovan, still looking for his league-record 135th goal, set up the last two scores.
“Tomorrow we have to get up and we have to continue working,” Cabrera said. “We can’t just start crying because we lost. We have …to realize that we have a lot of work to do.
“Let’s close the page and look forward.”