Earthquakes Lose To Galaxy 1-0, Bow Out of US Open Cup
With both sides fielding second-choice teams, the San Jose Earthquakes' reserves blinked first, switching off in the 6th minute and conceding what would become the winning goal to the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Head Coach Dominic Kinnear and Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena sent out a grand total of 2 of the 22 players who started in the exact same fixture last weeked in MLS. The Quakes came out with a 4-2-3-1 formation with Homegrown Tommy Thompson in the hole and Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi continuing his recovery from injury and earning the captain's armband on the night.
Jose Villareal, United States youth international and rising Galaxy star, was troublesome for the Quakes back line from the opening whistle, constantly finding space and shedding markers. It was therefore not a surprise when he popped up with a goal, after a sequence in which the Quakes midfield applied zero pressure, the back line tracked no runners, and out-of-position center-back JJ Koval simply had his lunch eaten en route to an easy finish.
"You start the game slow, you can get punished for it, and now you're chasing the game," said Kinnear after the match. "It doesn't matter how many chances you get, or if you think you're the better team, you need to start the game off correctly."
The Quakes looked lost at sea for quite some time after that, finding it particularly hard to deal with right winger Ignacio Maganto, but seeming to settle in by the quarter-hour mark. Koval redeemed himself somewhat in the 20th by heading away a dangerous driven cross. For the first half hour as a whole, the game was unusually tough and physical, with referee Allen Chapman calling his fair share of fouls but conspicuously avoiding going to his pocket.
The best the Quakes could manage going the other direction, however, were speculative counters that really didn't get anywhere near troubling the back of Galaxy keeper Brian Rowe's net. It was not until the half hour mark that the stadiums hearts rose at all, when Mark Sherrod nodded a set piece home but was (correctly) ruled offsides. Five minutes later Cordell Cato ran down a ball and cut it back to Sanna Nyassi, who laid it on a platter for Barrera 25 yards out from goal, dead-center. The Argentine winger hit it well, curling it with his left boot, but it went just wide.
The remaining passages of play in the first half took on the same physical, ugly tone as before, with the only exception being a few moments of usefulness from Thompson who seemed determined to create something from nothing. At halftime, Kinnear seemed to acknowledge that lack of guile by sending on forward Mike Fucito for the midfielder Khari Stephenson, whose only notable contribution was knocking the first shot into the bar in LOBINA's history.
It appeared to work, with the hosts looking considerably more frisky after the break, if not quite getting the results they wanted. Fucito stretched the back line, and Mark Sherrod did an excellent job of laying off passes to his wide men, creating far more space to operate than in the first half. Around the hour mark, the Quakes earned several of what would become 9 corners, and Thompson's deliveries consistently found blue and black jerseys, although the final products were all tame. Shortly thereafter, Leandro Barrera nearly looped one in a deadly position to Mark Sherrod, who just barely failed to reach it.
“Ultimately we were more aggressive, we passed the ball better, our movement off the ball was better, and second balls were ours," said Kinnear.
In the 60th minute, Adam Jahn came on for Sherrod and quickly announced his arrival by winning an aerial ball, putting it into no-mans-land between him and the keeper, and nearly chipping him, forcing an unsettled intervention by AJ De La Garza. The resulting corner bounced high out of the box towards Nyassi, who attempted the insane by hammering the volley just over the bar, to the crowd's delight and surprise.
Minutes later, Cordell Cato, who was in a useful mood all night, dangled his defender and put in a devastating cross towards Jahn. The former Stanford striker could only manage to flick it on, past a Fucito dummy, to a clear-on-goal Leandro Barrera who drove his strike just wide from 12 yards out.
While almost all of the movement on the field was one-way traffic in the Quakes favor, backup keeper Brian Meredith was called into action twice to preserve the scoreline. First, in the 73rd minute, Maganto put Raul Mendiola through with a tantilizing clip from the flank, and Meredith had to sprint off his line to beat the Galaxy attacker to the ball. In the 82 minute, a low dangerous cross was nearly dunked into the goal by former earthquake Alan Gordon, but Meredith managed not only to get to the ball but managed to twist his body in such a way to keep him from falling behind the line and conceding the goal anyway.
Kinnear's final roll of the dice was to throw Fatai Alashe on for Paulo Renato, leaving just one true defender on the field in the form of Shaun Francis in a back three with JJ Koval and Cordell Cato. Pierazzi remained deep, while Alashe went shoulder to shoulder with Thompson higher up the pitch. While the move certainly created a bit more uncertainty in attack, most of what Alashe could manage was limited to a weak right-footed shot and a few field switches as Galaxy packed it in to see out the whistle. One golden half-chance fell to the feet of Jahn only to be squandered, Pierazzi was rugby tackled in the box without a call, and a few decent crosses were put in, but after three minutes of stoppage time the hosts simply couldn't manage to get through to the back of the net.
Kinnear did say that the match was useful for evaluating players who didn't find themselves in the starting lineup in MLS, but that the loss was dissapointing on the night. Thompson, Pierazzi, Sherrod, and just about every other player after the game bemoaned not just the lost chance at a trophy, but fewer chances for game time for those who want to prove themselves the most.
The loss ends the Earthquakes participation in the US Open Cup, preventing a scheduling conflict with the friendly match against Manchester United on July 21st in Avaya stadium. Their next MLS game will be this Sunday, July 5, at 8pm, after the United States Women's National Team takes on Japan in the World Cup Final.