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MLS Preview: LA Galaxy at San Jose Earthquakes

Jun 29, 2013, 2:45 PM EDT

2012 MLS Cup - Houston Dynamo v Los Angeles Galaxy Getty Images
  • It’s the original “California Clasico”
  • Three regular season meetings between the teams last year produced a total of 16 goals
  • San Jose has moved this one out of tiny Buck Shaw Stadium, into the far larger Stanford Stadium

Back before Major League Soccer marketing mavens helped gin up the city of Los Angeles” SuperClasico” – these meetings lately between the two StubHub Center tenant have really been un-Super and un-Clasico, but never mind that for now – we had the original “California Clasico.”

That was San Jose against the LA Galaxy, a Coastal Highway series that did live up to billing, generating its share of memories through the years.

Ask MLS histories about the best playoff game in league history and one remarkable 2003 Galaxy-San Jose contest will surely be in the conversation, as the Northern Cali side hit for five unanswered goals to claim the post-season series dramatically on aggregate, 5-4.

Plenty of Earthquakes fans have never forgotten how Landon Donovan, having returned for another short spell in Europe, requested to return to MLS in a Galaxy uniform rather than suiting up once again for San Jose.

Remember David Beckham kicking a ball at an injured player, and at the referee standing alongside? That was Earthquakes-Galaxy stuff.

And later last year, who could forget Omar Gonzalez’s popping the top on a public can of bitter frustration over the Earthquakes’ gamesmanship and on-field antics?

So, that’s all in the background as the teams meet tonight at Stanford Stadium,

Talking points in this one, set for a 10:30 p.m. ET kickoff, include:

  • While the Galaxy remain in the thick of things in the West, now complete again upon the return from international duty of Gonzalez and Robbie Keane, the Earthquakes are two games into a coaching change and still near the bottom of the conference.
  • If Donovan wants to prove he belongs back with the national team and deserves that Gold Cup call-up, why not start proving so right now, in a showcase MLS contest? (This will be his last league date for three or four weeks.) We’ve seen the old Donovan so far in bursts; those 3 goals and 4 assists in 12 MLS contests aren’t awful. But these burst have been relatively few and far between, especially by this guy’s former standards. So, clearly, it’s time to find another gear.
  • Speaking of finding another gear, reigning Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski had 27 goals last year, matching an MLS single-season mark. This year, he’s on pace for about 10. Clearly, that’s not where the proud striker wants to be after San Jose doubled his guaranteed salary in the offseason to $600,000.
  • Wondolowski has a contusion on his right foot but is expected to play.
  • Yes, the Earthquakes just signed U.S. international Clarence Goodson, and he will surely make a formidable pairing alongside Victor Bernardez. But Goodson will not become available to the ‘Quakes until August. Until then, Jason Hernandez or Nana Attakora will pair regularly with the Honduran international Bernardez.

(MORE: Goodson-Bernardez now among top MLS center back combos)

  • Last year at this time, San Jose right back Steven Beitashour and left back Justin Morrow were burgeoning stars, about to become MLS All-Stars and squarely in Jurgen Klinsmann’s radar for national team call-ups. Injuries and overall team form have had a say as they have faded into the background of these conversations in 2013.
  • Earthquakes interim manager Mark Watson has a win and a loss so far; this is his first home match (even if it’s not exactly inside San Jose usual home).
  • Los Angeles was without a win in three matches before last week’s 1-0 victory over Chivas USA.
  • Keane missed practice Thursday due to neck spasms but told reporters on Friday he expected to travel and play.
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