Earthquakes Earn Statement Win Over Galaxy, 3-1
In front of a sold-out Stanford Stadium crowd, the San Jose Earthquakes took home their 3rd California Clásico in four years, defeating the Los Angeles Galaxy 3-1.
An opening lighteningbolt of a strike from Galaxy midfielder Juninho in the 17th minute proved no match for well-worked tallies from Chris Wondolowski, Clarence Goodson, and Cordell Cato, giving the Quakes three points and seeing them return to the playoff places in MLS's Western Conference.
Head Coach Dominic Kinnear summed it up nicely after the game: “Great goal by Juninho…but our response was great. The one thing I’ve said from day one is that I love the attitude of the group. 17 games in, I give them an A+ for mentality."
The two sides wasted no time getting the adrenaline going, with Wondolowski forcing Jaime Penedo into a point blank save barely 60 seconds into the proceedings after a corner fell favorably to his feet. The Galaxy then pressed the question themselves, forcing some tidy interventions from Victor Bernardez and Jordan Stewart in the opening quarter-hour to snuff out incipient danger. While both sides had brief moments of inspiration going forward, neither quite managed to dictate the terms of possession.
As the chances began to build the tension, the mood on the field joined it, with Robbie Rogers in particular getting into minor shoving matches with Quakes attackers and voicing his displeasure with the refereeing. The referee would even call the captains together in the 15th minute after Sanna Nyassi petulantly swept out the legs of a defender who had won the ball from him after he unwisely cut inside from a promising counter.
Then, out of nothing, the Galaxy opened the scoring by way of Juninho's dagger in the 17th. Fatai Alashe successfully had dispossesed the charging Dan Gargan, but the resulting loose ball was laid on a platter for the Brazilian, whose run from deep was utterly unmarked. The veteran made no mistake, driving the ball hard and low past Bingham's dive, with a bit of tail to it that made the keeper appear to have misread it.
San Jose nearly got the chance to equalize four minutes later, when Matias Pérez-García put Shea Salinas through over the top down the left channel, only for Penedo to slide tackle the ball from his feet before the winger could decide to square it or put it on frame. Both sides would find their share of names in the book, predominantly for prematurely interrupting attacks, with Stefan Ishizaki and Victor Bernardez providing particularly blatant examples.
In the 28th minute the hosts snatched back momentum through the vintage Wondo strike. A promising counter was switched to Pérez-García on the right flank, who promptly beat his man, looked up to find Wondo in the box, and crossed it to him just inside the penalty spot. The Captain buried the volley from there, splashing the roof of the top right corner of the net and celebrating emphatically as if to rouse the crowd's belief.
Wondowlowski, for his part, gave credit on the goal to the Argentine playmaker, saying “Our chemistry is growing. He’s such a skilled and smart player that it makes my job easier. I got the ball out wide to him and he put a beautiful ball right on my foot and I was able to put it right in the corner.”
While the energy in the stadium may well have been lifted, the traffic was still very much two-way. Stewart made yet another timely intervention to cut out a chance in the 31st deep in his own box. The Quakes offense was far from elegant, relying on an in-the-mood Adam Jahn, who bullied Rogers and Leonardo all half and laid off more than his share of well-won aerial duels in his return to his alma mater's campus.
Things got a bit threadbare on both ends, and another chance didn't manifest until the 44th, when Stewart found a bit of space from 30 out dead-on, taking a decent shot that sailed harmlessly over. San-Francisco-raised Sebastian Lletget settled a corner from the top of the 18 and put it on frame in the first minute of first-half stoppage time, but Bingham had a beat on it and got behind it easily.
The second half opened up with two unexpected substitutions; Adam Jahn made way for Mark Sherrod and Omar Gonzalez came off for AJ De La Garza. The former appeared to be the result of time-sharing between two relatively equal strikers while the second may well have been an unreported injury after a clash with Goodson. Sherrod picked up right where Jahn left off, forcing De La Garza to put one behind by challenging for a ball in the air in the 47th.
The Quakes then took the lead for good in the 53rd off a cleverly-worked set piece. Clarence Goodson and Mark Sherrod set up high on the far side of the box from a corner, wheeling off in opposite directions once the whistle blew. Pérez-García hit it near post, and Goodson beat everyone to it, nodding it past Gyasi Zardes and just inside the near post. The former US international, scoring just his 4th career MLS goal, vaulted the advertising hordings and sprinted into the stands, getting embraced in a manner that looked just a little bit like Lambeau.
From there, the Quakes exhibited the first real dominance of the game, manufacturing several quality chances on the counter. Going the other way, reigning league MVP Robbie Keane looked about as invisible as he has in years, creating very little beyond a hanging cross in the 58th that didn't quite find Lleget. Operating off the shoulder of the center-back tandem of Goodson and Bernardez, he found no space to operate, nor runners from wide due to lock-down performances from the fullbacks, Jordan Stewart and Marvell Wynne.
Kinnear said that his message to his defense before the match was “'Keep an eye on Robbie Keane.' The guy is a clever player, he finds good gaps, I thought Fatai did a good job sitting in front and shielding the back four, but I have to give the credit to Clarence and Victor [for shutting him down].”
Cordell Cato came on for the ineffectual Sanna Nyassi on the hour mark and immediately brought a bit of extra vigor into the San Jose attack, beating his man for pace in the 64th and getting the better of Rogers on more than one occasion. In the 72nd minute he was rewarded for his efforts, with Shea Salinas cutting in from the left flank and laying one off for him to take a touch and pass it past Penedo with his left foot to put the Quakes up 3-1.
An exhausted Galaxy side, having played 5 games in 2 weeks and already down two goals, wilted from then on. Wondolowski nearly put a fourth on the board from a hanging back-post cross from Salinas that he couldn't quite reach on the slide to direct it on frame in the 75th, and a few useful counters ensued, but the Quakes wouldn't go close again.
Bruce Arena attempted to spark his galaxy side by sending on Jose Villareal for Stefan Ishizaki and Alan Gordon on for Lleget, but the last quarter-hour was marked by the Quakes defense simply sucking the oxygen out of the game. Homegrown star Tommy Thompson made a late cameo on for Pérez-García, but the last action of the match aside from holding the ball in the corner was former Earthquakes man Gordon getting booked for persistent chippiness with the Quakes back line.
The win puts the Quakes in 6th place, just three points behind the Galaxy but four games in hand on them in the march up the standings. Asked what it felt like to beat his second title contender in a week, Wondolowski responded, “We want to be title contenders. That’s our philosophy. We feel confident.”
San Jose will contest a rematch with the Galaxy in their next game, this Wednesday, July 1, in Avaya stadium, in the round of 16 for the US Open Cup. Next weekend they'll head up to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Portland Timbers for their next MLS action.