It’s That Time of Year Again; California Clasico!By: Chris | June 24th, 2011
The Los Angeles Galaxy come to San Jose for the first leg of the California Classico tomorrow afternoon. The Quakes and Galaxy are two of the hottest teams in MLS right now. Los Angeles is on a 9 game unbeaten streak and San Jose went 6 games unbeaten before falling to Sporting KC last weekend in Kansas City. Last season the Quakes won the Classico in San Jose and drew with the Galaxy in Los Angeles.
Both teams are missing some key players due to the Gold Cup. Chris Wondolowski is out for the Quakes and Landon Donovan is out for the Galaxy, both are playing with the US National Team. Beckham might not be playing due to nagging injuries, but he isn’t one to sit out a rivalry unless it’s a serious injury. Both teams have star Jamaican players returning after their defeat at the hands of the US last weekend, Ryan Johnson for the Quakes and Donovan Ricketts for the Galaxy. Johnson started to heat up before the Gold Cup and played extremely well during the competition, while Ricketts has been even better between the posts this year than last year.
It’s no secret that the passion and fervor of the California Classico has diminished in the last 3 years, at least from a Los Angeles perspective. A few of the players who were around before 2006 remember the intensity of the matches, but have stated that the fire from Galaxy players has subsided for 2 reasons. First, the plain fact that Chivas USA share a home with Los Angeles at the Home Depot Center. It’s hard to drum up intense passion for a team from farther up north in the state when you have a rival right in your backyard. Second, and most important, is the fact that the San Jose team that made the rivalry what it was for 10 years packed up and moved to Houston. Todd Dunivant, a Galaxy defender, was on the Extra Time Radio Podcast on Monday and talked a little about the rivalry. He made these same two points and laid out the fact that when the team you battle multiple times a year for California supremacy leaves the state, it’s hard to bring that sort of energy back when there’s another team in Los Angeles.
While Galaxy players and supporters may not feel the same way about the Classico as they once did, that’s not to say the Quakes players and fans are the same, quite contrary. This is the game the fans look forward to all year. While many still hold ill will towards Donovan for booking it to Los Angeles in 2005, there is more at stake for the fans than just Donovan’s supposed betrayal. This was the first big rivalry in MLS. Two clubs in the same state, pretty close together. It was MLS’ version of the Derby della Madonnina (Milan Derby of Inter Milan v. AC Milan), El Clásico (Real Mardid v. FC Barcelona) and any of the hundreds of English derbies. There is history to this match up that San Jose fans relish and is usually the biggest draw of the season for the club. I think the San Jose players accept the rivalry for what it is more than the Galaxy players do and because of this the Quakes have come out in past years with a desire to prove to the league that despite being on hiatus for 2 years, the team can still hold their own with “their” derby.
This will be a steep challenge for the Quakes tomorrow. The Galaxy are playing extremely well at the moment, even without Ricketts, Beckham and Donovan. While the Quakes aren’t slouching themselves, they are going up against a much tougher opponent than they have faced in the past. I would say that besides the Red Bulls, this game tomorrow is the toughest challenger the Quakes have faced yet this season. In order for the Quakes to pull off a victory they will need to get the midfield churning out passes. In the Sporting game the midfield was stagnant and there was not a lot of possession or passing to the forwards making runs. With red hot Johnson coming back, expect the midfield to jump at the chance of getting him the ball. The defense has been solid for the past 4 games, even in the Sporting game. With the exception of the free kick the back line held firm. San Jose’s forwards will also need to find space between the Galaxy’s back four. Los Angeles have only let through 10 goals so far this season, so it will be tough, but with Dawkins and Johnson providing support, the team should be able to put the ball in the net.
While I have faith in the team, I think an outright victory is going to be very tough. As such, if the team comes away with a draw, I’ll be more than happy.
The US plays Mexico in the Gold Cup final tomorrow evening. If you are attending the game at Buck Shaw you can stay at the stadium and watch the game on the jumbotron. Food trucks will be staying and the snack bar will stay open to feed people for the event. It’s a big night for the US. A win will secure their spot in the Confederations Cup in 2013 in Brazil. Mexico is the favorite but the US has that grit and determination that can see them through as the champions. Once again Wondo should be in the game day 18 with Altidore out with a hamstring injury. It would be awesome if Wondo could play and even score in the final, that’d be amazing. But Bradley probably won’t start Wondo ahead of Agudelo. Despite the bad blood between the supporters and Donovan, I hope that those who stay will cheer for him while he’s playing for the national team and save their boos until he’s back in Galaxy white.