Skip to content

MLS playoff preview: San Jose at Los Angeles

Nov 3, 2012, 6:16 PM EDT

San Jose Earthquakes v Portland Timbers Getty Images

San Jose’s 2012 success has been so thorough that we forget – they’re not supposed to be here. A few ambitious prognosticators picked Frank Yallop’s team to content for the playoffs, but nobody expected a near start-to-finish run to the Supporters’ Shield. Along the way, the Earthquakes have received individual performances worthy of the league’s best player, defender, and coach awards. It’s been a truly magical season.

So far, at least. One of the harsh realities of a playoff system is the perspective it puts on the regular season. If San Jose goes on a playoff run, it will an ultimate, validating context to the team’s incredible season. If, however, San Jose is derailed, 2012 will live in the polite reminders of weary-hearted supporters. Exiting at the round of eight would be too sooner, even for a team that’s shrugged off modest expectations.

Against that back drop enters the LA Galaxy – defending MLS champions, the league’s best team over the last four years, with a squad that’s narrowed its eyes on the `Quakes after the teams’ most recent, highly volatile encounter.

Among MLS quartet of captivating conference semifinals, a two-legged California Clasico may be the round’s headline matchup.

Kickoff: 9:00 p.m. Eastern, Sunday, Home Depot Center, ESPN

The last time LA took the field | And the last time we saw San Jose

On the LA Galaxy:

  • What to make of LA’s struggles against Vancouver? On one hand, they had unexpected trouble with a team that was among the league’s worst in the second half. But one-off goals can happen to the best of teams. When they come early enough to put a favorite behind, random goals can take-on undo importance. If Matt Watson beat Hector Jimenez after LA had already scored, no alarms would have ever been sound.
  • The main thing to take from Thursday’s match may not be any Galaxy weakness but the potential effect on their fitness. The early goal forced the veteran team to chase a match for near-70 minutes. Now the ywelcome the league’s best team – a notoriously physical one – on only two days’ rest. It’s a bad set of circumstances for a team whose three main players (David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane) are a combined 99 years old.
  • More trouble in LaLa Land: Injuries are mounting. A.J. DeLaGarza and Sean Franklin missed Thursday’s game, forcing Jimenez to play right back. Franklin may return. DeLaGarza won’t. Meanwhile, LA’s best midfielder, Juninho, got kicked in an Achilles against Vancouver and, as of Friday, was still feeling pain.
  • Last meeting in San Jose (on Oct. 21) left LA with a bad taste in their mouths, the defending champions giving up two leads en route to a 2-2 draw. The headlines post-match centered on Galaxy criticisms of San Jose’s style of play, with one prominent LA player calling the Earthquakes “a bunch of jokes.”
  • That player was defender Omar Gonzalez, the man who has to deal with the likes of Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon. The 24-year-old defender has been a key part of the Galaxy’s mid-season about face, solidifying the defense after returning mid-season from knee injury. With others’ injuries leaving Bruce Arena’s defense in disrepair, it’s hard to imagine LA advancing without a big series from from the reigning Defender of the Year.

On the San Jose Earthquakes:

  • San Jose finished the regular season with the league’s best record, no small feat considering the depth at the top of the West. You’d expect four title contenders to take points off each other, but the Earthquakes avoided that peril, posting a 8-0-1 record against Real Salt Lake, Seattle, and the LA Galaxy (San Jose did lose in U.S. Open Cup play to a largely second-choice Sounders).
  • The basis of that success was stellar attack, led by new (joint) single-season goal-scoring champion Chris Wondolowski. Wondo’s 27 goals were nine more than the league’s second most-prolific scorer, though the team’s league-leading 72 goals (13 more than the next-best team, LA) were helped by 14 goals from Alan Gordon, 10 from Steven Lenhart, and eight from Simon Dawkins.
  • A big part of that production is San Jose’s late game efficiency, the ‘Goonies’ having developed a flare for the dramatic. Against a LA team that’s being thinned out by accumulated miles and persisting knocks, the Earthquakes could be in for more late match success.
  • In-game attrition will be a factor, also, no matter Gonzalez’s disdain for the tactic. The physicality of Lenhart and Gordon always stresses a defense, as does Frank Yallop’s willingness to play so heavily into a direct tactic. San Jose’s battlers free up Wondolowski, one of the league’s best poachers, and with the service of Martin Chavez, the forwards are sure to be delivered a dangerous ball.
  • Adding to opposition difficulties is San Jose’s depth, a collection of talent that allows the team to assume a completely (but equally effective) look while chasing games. Yallop’s bench will likely feature Shea Salinas, Khari Stephenson, Ramiro Corrales, Ike Opara and Gordon, though the new U.S. international is questionable with an ankle problem.
Latest Posts
  1. Argentina 6-1 Paraguay: La Albiceleste thump Los Guaraníes to set up blockbuster final vs Chile

    Jun 30, 2015, 9:38 PM EDT

    Argentina's defender Marcos Rojo (2-L) celebrates with teammates after scoring against Paraguay during their Copa America semifinal football match in Concepcion, Chile on June 30, 2015.    AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDA        (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    There will be a blockbuster final to the Copa America, as Argentina thumped Paraguay to cruise to the final.

  2. With the World Cup on the line, the USWNT gave us a vintage performance to savor

    Jun 30, 2015, 9:21 PM EDT

    USA's midfielder Carli Lloyd (R) fights for the ball with Germany's defender Saskia Bartusiak during their 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup semifinal match at Olympic Stadium in Montreal on June 30, 2015.    AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM        (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    With one brilliant 90-minute performance, the United States reasserted itself as the best team in the world.

  3. United States defeats Germany, advances to Women’s World Cup final

    Jun 30, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT

    lloydscores Getty Images

    The U.S. is headed to the final for the fourth time in seven tournaments.

  4. Gervinho’s requests for helicopter, private beach end transfer interest of UAE club

    Jun 30, 2015, 7:04 PM EDT

    gervinho AP

    The Ivorian international, 28, appeared set for a 4-year deal worth about $14.5 million.

  5. FOLLOW LIVE: Copa America — Argentina and Paraguay battle for title date with Chile

    Jun 30, 2015, 6:41 PM EDT

    Argentina v Bosnia-Herzegovina: Group F - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Getty Images

    There hasn’t been a single clean sheet kept in a match-up of these two teams since 2010. Should be a fun one.

  6. WATCH LIVE: The USWNT takes on Germany in the Women’s World Cup semifinals (Lineups, Live Stream)

    Jun 30, 2015, 6:12 PM EDT

    aaaalloyd Getty Images

    Lauren Holiday and Megan Rapinoe return from their yellow card suspensions to play starting roles in Tuesday’s Women’s World Cup semifinal.

  7. Reports: Galaxy on verge of landing El Tri star Dos Santos as “core player”

    Jun 30, 2015, 5:51 PM EDT

    VILLARREAL, SPAIN - DECEMBER 21:  Giovani Dos Santos of Villarreal in action during the La Liga match between Villarreal CF and Deportivo de La Coruna at El Madrigal on December 21, 2014 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images) Getty Images

    There’s haves, have nots and have a lots, and the Los Angeles Galaxy are in the final category.

  8. Knee injury forces Brad Davis out of Gold Cup; USMNT set to add Greg Garza

    Jun 30, 2015, 4:45 PM EDT

    HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 28:  Brad Davis #11 of the Houston Dynamo sits on the pitch during their game against the Colorado Rapids at BBVA Compass Stadium on March 28, 2015 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) Getty Images

    A long-standing right bone bruise will keep the Houston Dynamo midfielder out of the upcoming Gold Cup.

  9. Report: Sepp Blatter will not attend Women’s World Cup final

    Jun 30, 2015, 4:04 PM EDT

    FIFA president Sepp Blatter gestures as he speaks during  a press conference on May 30, 2015 in Zurich after being re-elected during the FIFA Congress. Blatter said he was "shocked" at the way the US judiciary has targeted football's world body and slammed what he called a "hate" campaign by Europe's football leaders.  AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI        (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    An incredibly-confident man who branded himself the “Godfather of women’s football” certainly won’t relish sitting this one out.

  10. WATCH LIVE: Quarterfinal spots up for grabs in US Open Cup fifth round

    Jun 30, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT

    US Open Cup trophy Getty Images

    How to stay in touch with all the Open Cup action in Tuesday’s four games.

  11. Nigel Pearson fired as manager by Leicester City

    Jun 30, 2015, 3:11 PM EDT

    Nigel Pearson, Leicester City FC Nigel Pearson, Leicester City FC

    Foxes decide to fire Pearson despite the greatest of “great escapes” during the 2014-15 season.

  12. Top goalkeepers Hope Solo, Nadine Angerer clash in USA-Germany semifinal

    Jun 30, 2015, 2:20 PM EDT

    OTTAWA, ON - JUNE 26: Hope Sollo of USA smiles during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Quarter Final match between China and United States at Lansdowne Stadium on June 26, 2015 in Ottawa, Canada.  (Photo by Lars Baron - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images) Getty Images

    The two best goalkeepers in the world square off in the Women’s World Cup semifinals.

  13. NBC Sports to air Barclays Asia Trophy as Arsenal, Everton and Stoke head to Singapore

    Jun 30, 2015, 1:29 PM EDT

    PremierLeagueNBC

    Find out how to watch the preseason tournament in Singapore live, here.

  14. How should USWNT line up against Germany in World Cup semifinal?

    Jun 30, 2015, 12:43 PM EDT

    China v United States: Quarter Final - FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 China v United States: Quarter Final - FIFA Women's World Cup 2015

    With a huge World Cup encounter hours away, USWNT head coach Jill Ellis has a lot to ponder.

  15. Petr Cech pens emotional farewell letter to Chelsea fans after Arsenal move

    Jun 30, 2015, 11:50 AM EDT

    FC Bayern Muenchen v Chelsea FC - UEFA Champions League Final Getty Images

    The Chelsea legend has left Stamford Bridge with a heavy heart after 11 years of success.

  16. 2017 UEFA Champions League final to be held at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium

    Jun 30, 2015, 10:43 AM EDT

    Millennium Stadium Millennium Stadium

    Gareth Bale now has the chance to lift the UCL trophy in his hometown.

Featured video

PST Extra: Sterling & latest transfer gossip