TSG took in the San Jose Earthquake-Los Angeles Galaxy game from the stands Saturday at a sunny Buck Shaw Stadium and watched as the Earthquakes took the lead early and then befuddled a frustrated Galaxy side.
An acute angle strike by $48,000-per-year man Chris Wondolowski–he of the now 8 goals on the season–put the Quakes ahead and set the upset in motion.
However, if you witnessed the lead-up, then you know the credit, or discredit, goes to the Galaxy keeper Donovan Ricketts for failing to communicate with back-up leftback A.J. De La Garza on a cross into the box.
Both De La Garza and Ricketts avoided the incoming hot potato and Wondolowski was all too happy to collect the marble before it bounded beyond the endline and fire it low into the left corner pocket. San Jose was 1-0 to the good.
L.A. coach Bruce Arena was still perturbed at the early gaffe in the post game press conference adding, “I don’t know what Donovan (Ricketts) was thinking on that one. I think he thought the ball was going to go out. I’m going to have to ask him.”
The strike was all the Quakes would need on a day when it appeared they followed the blueprint on the whiteboard in their locker room to the letter. It read:
2. Just f*cking win
Once San Jose had the lead, they sat extremely deep and clogged the midfield, resorting to relieving pressure on over-the-top balls to Cornell Glen who, though ably defended most of the day by the Galaxy defense and seemingly beset by a multitude of injuries big and small, battled until he was relieved by the league’s newest Designated Player Geovanni late in the 2nd half.
Thanks to seven saves by keeper Jon Busch–one an intelligent wrong-handed punch in the 2nd on a ball that it seemed Busch thought would go out–the Earthquakes bend-don’t-break strategy only bent and the battle of California went to the uptown side.
The game certainly appeared to turn in the midfield.
Arena might have credited star Landon Donovan with his “man of the match,” but the Galaxy looked like a team–in midfield–that was far from the top of the table.
At one point in the first half, Sean Franklin waved and audibly called Michael Stephens off the ball, only to see the youngster play the ball and immediately turn it over.
On multiple occasions, Donovan seemed frustrated, either throwing his hands up in the air or constantly beckoning forward Mike Magee to move off him off the ball. (Mike Magee had a nasty case of USMNTitis on the days as well. Definition here.)
Omar Gonzalez could be heard hollering at one point up-the-field at Stephens, “Where the (blank) do you want me to go with that ball?”
I asked Arena about what seemed like a lot of confusion through the center of the pitch after the game:
“Coach, seemed like a lot of confusion in your midfield today and a lot of frustration coming with it. A lot of players throwing their hands up in the air or failing to move off the ball.”
Arena’s response? “Really? I didn’t see it. I didn’t see the gestures.”
San Jose midfielder Sam Cronin did though: “Yeah, I noticed their players getting frustrated. I think we were in good spots. They’re maybe used to getting more space, but we felt as long as they didn’t get behind us today we’d be alright.”
Cronin gave his side a “B+,” citing a good team effort for the high mark, and lack of possession which took it down from an A.
At the end of the day, a B+ effort gets San Jose a hard fought win over the league-leading Galaxy.
• Asked Cronin about Cody Arnoux, his former Wake Forest teammate who recently signed the Vancouver Whitecaps:
“Yeah, I spoke with Cody, he’s excited by it (signing with Vancouver). He had a good time at Everton, but realized he wasn’t ready yet when he went over there. He’s got a good future up there and I think he’ll make it back to Europe.”
• Checked in with Ike Opara, a really nice and well-spoken player, who hobbled on crutches through the press area.
Opara on his broken foot:
“It’s coming along fine. I’m on schedule.”
On possibly missing an opportunity to join up with the USMNT when they faced Brazil:
“Aw, I’m not even thinking about that. I’m just focused on this (pointing to his injured wheel) right now.”
• TSG will be doing a profile on Chris Wondolowski shortly. If you have any questions just send them in.
• If you’re in the Bay Area and making it down to a San Jose, the team management does a great job with the facility it has and the pulled chicken sandwich is the way to go at the concession stand.
• Some comments from the TSG/Black Sox/DieHipsterBrew crew that I attended with:
• “That Gonzalez guy looks like he played the wrong sport…he should be playing rugby.”
• “Those hooligans (the “Ultras”) are so organized.”
• “De La Garza is very aggressive when he’s 1-on-1 with himself and the ball.” Um, okay
• “Mike Magee, following the lead of US nattie team strikers everywhere…”
• “Jeez…how much lemonade do they serve here? No beer, just lemonade.” (The ratio of lemonade vendors to all other vendors at the Buck is 135:1)