Chivas USA knows there is more at stake than bragging rights in the final 2012 edition of the SuperClasico.
The club has split its first two meetings with the Los Angeles Galaxy and can draw closer to the defending MLS Cup champions with a victory Sunday night.
The Home Depot Center co-tenants are separated by seven points in the standings. Los Angeles (10-11-3) has 33 points for fifth place and the Western Conference's final playoff spot. Chivas (7-8-5), however, has played four fewer games.
"It's probably the most important game for us so far this year," Chivas captain Danny Califf told the league's official website. "Not only will it put us within four points of them with four games in hand, it's just the simple rivalry and us feeling in general that we're playing second fiddle all the time."
The winner of this matchup will capture the season series. Chivas won 1-0 on May 19 to end an 11-game winless run in the series before Los Angeles posted a 3-1 victory July 21 as Landon Donovan scored twice and Robbie Keane added the other.
"We take a lot of pride in this rivalry, but I think more importantly, probably for both teams at this point, is these could end up the last two teams that fight for a playoff spot," Donovan told the Galaxy's official website. "That's where our focus is."
The Galaxy had been on a 4-0-1 run in MLS play before last Sunday's humbling 4-0 loss at Seattle. They had not been shut out since the loss to Chivas in May.
"It's important that we bounce back, and it's always good to bounce back against another rival," Keane said. "I know the lads are looking forward to getting back on the field and eradicate the mistakes and the way that we played."
Chivas has not played since a 1-0 victory at Portland on July 28. Califf scored in the 68th minute.
Chivas remains the lowest-scoring team in MLS with 14 goals from its 20 games while Los Angeles has one of the league's worst defenses, allowing 39 goals in 24 contests.
"It's a work in progress to build a team," said Chivas coach Robin Fraser, a former MLS defender of the year for the Galaxy. "As you grow and you maybe accomplish this, (things) could maybe be tweaked to make us a little sharper and a little better."
Chivas is set to debut Shalrie Joseph, acquired from New England on Aug. 3 in exchange for fellow midfielder Blair Gavin.
"I just think in terms of putting together a complete team, a player like Shalrie is something that will move us closer in that direction," Fraser said.
The Chivas midfield could get another boost from Oswaldo Minda, who has returned to training after missing the last four games due to a shoulder injury.
The Galaxy know there is plenty of time for them to move up the standings as they try to defend their title.
"I think if we get a couple results and sort of make a stand and we know we're in the playoffs, who knows what can happen, you know?" Keane said. "We could go on a good run."