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. Watch Live: Tottenham vs. West Brom (Lineups)

    Sep 21, 2014, 8:07 AM EDT

    Pochettino Getty Images

    Mauricio Pochettino has to navigate a pair of fixtures in four days thanks to the Europa League, and will look to avoid the first defeat to West Brom at White Hart Lane in 30 years.

  2. Watch Live: Leicester City vs. Manchester United (Lineups)

    Sep 21, 2014, 7:48 AM EDT

    Falcao Getty Images

    Radamel Falcao makes his first start for Manchester United who look to build on a strong win last weekend.

  3. Report: Manchester United target Strootman hires RVP’s agent to push move

    Sep 21, 2014, 7:25 AM EDT

    Strootman Getty Images

    Strootman has hired a man with a solid reputation to try and bring down Roma’s insane asking price.

  4. MLS Roundup: Sounders, D.C. United slip; LA gains ground in the West

    Sep 21, 2014, 1:55 AM EDT

    rodney_wallace Getty Images

    Highlights and recaps from the seven-match night in Major League Soccer.

  5. MLS Snapshot: LA Galaxy 2-1 FC Dallas

    Sep 21, 2014, 12:49 AM EDT

    MLS Sounders Galaxy Soccer AP

    Alan Gordon’s late winner moves LA even with Seattle at the top of Major League Soccer.

  6. Wenger, post-match: Focus was key as Arsenal burst past Aston Villa

    Sep 20, 2014, 10:25 PM EDT

    arsene_wenger Getty Images

    Arsenal’s manager lauded his team’s concentration in its 3-0 win at Villa Park.

  7. MLS Snapshot: New York Red Bulls 4-1 Seattle Sounders

    Sep 20, 2014, 9:27 PM EDT

    bradley_wright_phillips_tim_cahill AP

    Bradley Wright-Phillips is closing in on history after his season’s third hat trick.

  8. Premier League Sunday preview: Man City vs. Chelsea; Everton, Spurs, Man United in action

    Sep 20, 2014, 8:02 PM EDT

    Chelsea and Man City will square off early in the season. AP

    Can Chelsea stay perfect by beating Man City? Will United win again? How will Spurs, Everton do after Europa League action? Super Sunday is upon us.

  9. Premier League recap: All goals, highlights from Saturday’s action

    Sep 20, 2014, 7:52 PM EDT

    danny_welbeck AP

    Arsenal became the first to break through Aston Villa, while Sam Allardyce’s plans came to fruition in East London.

  10. MLS Snapshot: Portland Timbers 3-0 Vancouver Whitecaps

    Sep 20, 2014, 7:16 PM EDT

    diego_valeri AP

    The Timbers claim fifth in the Western Conference after another decisive win over their rivals.

  11. Watch Live: New York Red Bulls vs. Seattle Sounders (Lineups)

    Sep 20, 2014, 6:48 PM EDT

    Thierry Henry 4

    Thierry Henry will be center stage as two teams recovering from mid-week commitments meet at Red Bull Arena.

  12. Diego Valeri’s volley against Vancouver is near-perfection (video)

    Sep 20, 2014, 6:20 PM EDT

    Portland Timbers against the Seattle Sounders AP

    Portland’s brightest executed a sublime volley to give his team a first half lead.

  13. Post-match: Redknapp lauds QPR character after draw with Stoke City

    Sep 20, 2014, 5:07 PM EDT

    harry_redknapp Getty Images

    QPR manager credited Potters’ solidity while extolling the value of his team’s point.

  14. Brendan Rodgers post-match comments: “A day with too many mistakes”

    Sep 20, 2014, 5:01 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-09-20 at 5.00.13 PM

    The Liverpool boss didn’t see enough dynamic play from his squad after a mid-week UEFA Champions League match against Ludogorets.

  15. WATCH: Celta Vigo backheel goal is an instant contender for goal of the year

    Sep 20, 2014, 4:33 PM EDT

    Club Atletico de Madrid v Real Club Celta de Vigo -La Giga Getty Images

    Former DC United player Pablo Hernandez can take as many bows as he’d like after his stunning backheel volley put one past Atletico Madrid.

  16. Watch Live: Portland Timbers vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (Lineups)

    Sep 20, 2014, 4:23 PM EDT

    Get use to seeing more south American players heading to MLS, as Opta's office in Uruguay will help to unearth Latin American gems (see, Diego Valeri) on the cheap. AP

    NBCSNs Major League Soccer doubleheader kicks off at 5 p.m. ET in Oregon. Here are your lineups and streaming information:

  17. WATCH: AC Milan rolls out A-plus tifo before Juventus match

    Sep 20, 2014, 4:03 PM EDT

    AC Milan v Juventus FC - Serie A Getty Images

    Roughly-translated, it said, “A year of rage to be great again.” That’s good stuff, and the noisy crowd made it even better.

  18. Bundesliga wrap: Hamburg holds Bayern; Newly-promoted club atop league

    Sep 20, 2014, 3:37 PM EDT

    Germany Soccer Bundesliga AP

    There were several eyebrow raisers on Matchday 4 even before Sunday’s Rhein Derby and a big Wolfsburg match versus Bayer Leverkusen.

  19. Cameroon to host 2019 African Cup of Nations; 2021, 2023 hosts announced

    Sep 20, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT

    cameroon squad AP

    Cameroon will host the ACON for the second time in their history in 2019.

  20. Premier League roundup: Arsenal, Southampton win, Liverpool upset

    Sep 20, 2014, 2:57 PM EDT

    Aston Villa v Arsenal - Premier League Getty Images

    Recaps, videos, reaction and analysis from Saturday’s six games in the PL.

Featured video

Breaking down Man City vs. Chelsea