San Jose Earthquakes react to the penalty decision (San Jose Earthquakes Facebook page)
This time, the Los Angeles Galaxy did not leave any room for last second heroics. With a Robbie Keane brace and counter attack goal from Landon Donovan, the Galaxy easily defeated the San Jose Earthquakes 3-0 in the latest edition of the California Clasíco. This wasn’t the most competitive chapter of the rivalry by any means, the Earthquakes got ran over in a match that exemplified both teams respective positions in the Western Conference. The Galaxy, flying high among the MLS elites and then you have the Earthquakes, who made it 10 losses on the road tonight, a horrible stat making their playoff aspirations that much more fleeting.
The Earthquakes needed to go for the win and Mark Watson’s 4-1-4-1 formation reflected that mindset and desire for 3 points. With Chris Wondolowski, Steven Lenhart, and Alan Gordon all starting, Watson wanted to have all of his attacking powers in. The only problem was is that their best scorer, Wondolowski, sat far too deep the entire match. Even when the Quakes were all but officially done after LA’s third goal, he continued to play a central midfielder role. Obviously pushing all three guys forward in an aggressive 4-3-3 formation for example isn’t suited for this team, but leaving Wondo to wander aimlessly far from the goal was a tactic that needed changing but never occurred. As stated in my preview of this match, Sam Cronin was going to be the man in a deep, holding midfielder role. And for all things considered, he played decent and was in the right areas, but the Quakes really missed Victor Bernardez tonight as Jason Hernandez did not bring the same tenacity the towering Honduran offers to the backline. All of this and then some, summed up a forgettable night for the Quakes.
San Jose kept it close for the early goings of the match and challenged, Galaxy keeper, Jaime Penedo, early on off a corner kick. Marvin Chavez’s ball fell right to Wondolowski, but the striker’s volley did not have enough power behind it and Penedo’s reflexes were enough to stop the low shot. Steven Beitashour was proving himself a formidable foe to Gyasi Zardes and Cordell Cato was taking his chances against A.J. Delagarza on the left flank for San Jose. LA was winning the possession battle, but San Jose was not chasing the ball completely at this point in the match. Soon enough though, they would be chasing Landon Donovan.
In the 26th minute after a free kick from San Jose was pelted away by Omar Gonzalez’s head, the Galaxy saw an open field and the counter attack was on. Marcelo Sarvas received the ball and immediately passed it to Robbie Keane who found his main man, Landon Donovan, timing a determined run downfield. The captain expertly chipped the ball onto Donovan whose run split Cronin and Hernandez instantly. He charged toward goal, rounded Jon Busch, and slotted home the Galaxy’s first of the night. The American, who signed a new deal with the Galaxy earlier this week, tucked away his 100th goal for the club. It was a nifty through ball from his Irish colleague and from then on, the Galaxy began to systematically take the Quakes out of the game.
The Galaxy got their second right before the half, after Beitashour took down Zardes in the box. The fullback just got a touch on the young striker/winger, the contact was there, but Zardes sold the brush up well and with a blow of the whistle, up stepped Robbie Keane from the spot. The veteran didn’t take the best shot in his long, goal getting career, Busch got a hand on it, but it was strong enough to give LA a two goal advantage right before halftime.
After both teams returned from the locker room, the Galaxy, fresh with memories of last meetings failure, stepped on the accelerator and San Jose’s throats. The Quakes simply had no answer to the Galaxy’s offense and came out in the second half looking more beleaguered and unimaginative than the first 45 minutes. The Galaxy had multiple chances to extend their lead, a 4 on 2 counter attack in the 55th minute, slick passing in the 60th minute come to mind. All of this dominance and near misses culminated in the 67th minute when Robbie Keane showed the Southland the kind of goal scoring technique he brings to the MLS.
After Zardes veered to the left flank and weighted his options, the CSU Bakersfield product sent the ball to the other end of the 18 yard box to Franklin. Franklin, who was making Jordan Stewart’s life a living hell for most of the second 45 minutes, was able to break free and head the ball back toward the center of the box to a loosely marked Robbie Keane. Keane did not need to think twice about the opportunity and struck his volley fast and true. The ball left his cleat and, as if was carried by the Santa Anta winds themselves, soared into San Jose’s net and into the nightmares of Quakes fans, No summersault followed, but Keane’s damage was flamboyant enough, omnipresent even.
The San Jose Earthquakes’ playoff hopes are dwindling every time they step out on the field away from home. Unlike the Galaxy who are right now challenging Real Salt Lake for the top spot in the West, the Quakes have to bring the confidence exuded at Buck Shaw in their luggage, on the plane, and then ultimately on the field when they play on the road. Without doing that for the remaining 7 games, three of which are on the road, the Goonies will go home early. Even if a serious comeback was to be ignited next week, they might have just left it too late in the year to reach the playoffs.