SANTA Clara, Calif. – Omar Gonzalez’s past with Steven Lenhart is well-documented, but in Wednesday night’s Western Conference Semifinal Second Leg, it was the LA Galaxy center back that had the last laugh as LA defeated the San Jose Earthquakes, 3-1 and 3-2 on aggregate.
Gonzalez and Lenhart tangled repeatedly throughout the match, with the two each being awarded yellow cards for their battles – Gonzalez earning his in the 41st minute for a forearm to the back of Lenhart and the Earthquakes striker picking one up a minute later after shoving Gonzalez to the pitch.Histrionics aside, Gonzalez was dominated the Earthquakes forward from start to finish as his size and quickness frequently proved too much for the physical San Jose forward. Perhaps Gonzalez's finest moment against Lenhart came in the 81st minute when the Earthquakes striker appeared to have a clear shot at goal after cutting around the defense, but Gonzalez was able to make a last second block to direct the shot out of play.
“It was a tough battle,” Gonzalez said of his match up with Lenhart. “You guys saw it. I think that I got the better of him today. It just feels good. We finally put this team down.”
With Lenhart and forward Chris Wondolowski struggling to find the back of the net, the Galaxy capitalized with three goals in the first half, two from Robbie Keane and one by Mike Magee to put the game out of reach for San Jose. Although Alan Gordon would find the back of the net to cut the score to 3-1, it wasn’t enough for the Earthquakes.
“It’s amazing. They did well during the year, but they couldn’t pull it off tonight,” said Gonzalez after the match. “It just felt great to hear that whistle blow, and just to finally be over with those guys. We came out on top and I thought that they fought well. But they just couldn’t pull it off tonight.
In the few moments when the Earthquakes did get in behind the Galaxy back four, Gonzalez’s center back partner Tommy Meyer was up to the task. Repeatedly the young centerback was able to match the Earthquakes’ physicality, even though San Jose’s had targeted him for much of the match. But if it wasn’t Meyer then it was goalkeeper Josh Saunders, right back Sean Franklin or Todd Dunivant, who were able to make the timely saves to keep San Jose off the board for much of the game.
“I just think that our guys came out a lot more confident than them. We did a great job of sticking together in the back, being really close, and just challenging for everything. I think that most of our guys won the 50-50 battles.
But even when Gordon scored to move the game to just a single Earthquakes goal of extratime, Gonzalez made sure that LA’s defense held to prevent any late magic.
“Tonight wasn’t their night,” said Gonzalez. “You can do that all year, but when you need it is tonight and they couldn’t do it.”
Notes from the LA Galaxy's 3-1 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes in Western Conference Semifinal
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- A few notes from the LA Galaxy's 3-1 (3-2 aggregate) victory over the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday night.
*Robbie Keane tallied a pair of goals on Sunday to bring his postseason mark to three all-time in MLS.
*Alan Gordon cut LA's lead to 3-2 on aggregate with a goal in the 82nd minute.
*Prior to Keane's brace on Sunday, the last Galaxy player to score two was Landon Donovan in the Western Conference Championship against the Colorado Rapids in 2005.
*With losses for San Jose and Sporting Kansas City, the 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs mark the second time in MLS' 17 year history that the two top seeds in both conferences failed to advance past the Conference Semifinals.
*The Galaxy are now the third team to advance from the Conference Semifinal after losing at home. Joining the 2010 San Jose Earthquakes and 2006 Colorado Rapids.
*Marcelo Sarvas, Juninho, David Beckham, and Omar Gonzalez are all on yellow card watch. The cards do not reset until MLS Cup.
*With their victory, LA have now advanced to four straight Western Conference Championships since the 2009 season.
*With the Houston Dynamo's victory over Sporting Kansas City, the Galaxy could still host the 2012 MLS Cup FInal if both teams advance.
CONCACAF has announced the schedule for the Hexagonal, the final round of World Cup qualifying with a draw in Miami, Florida on Wednesday.
The complete United States schedule is below...
March 22nd- vs. Costa Rica
March 26th- at Mexico
June 7th- at Jamaica
June 11th- vs. Panama
June 18th- vs. Honduras
Sept. 6th- at Costa Rica
Sept. 10th- vs. Mexico
Oct. 11th- vs. Jamaica
Oct. 15th- at Panama
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- We're just hours away from tonight's decisive Western Conference Semifinal Second Leg between the LA Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes, before you tune into tonight's match at Buck Shaw Stadium, I've got a few observations and links for you.
David Beckham will be making his first appearance at Buck Shaw Stadium and the Galaxy midfielder is relishing the challenge of the intimate stadium.
The Galaxy will be facing long odds to advance at Buck Shaw, but the Galaxy believe that they are in control of their own destiny.
Robbie Keane feels that the Earthquakes will be looking to sit back on Wednesday night, but the Irish forward is ready for LA's 'all or nothing" approach.
In my preview for the game, I speak to Beckham and Galaxy captain Landon Donovan about LA's game plan for tonight.
LAGalaxy.com writer Larry Morgan writes about LA's positive mindset ahead of tonight's game.
Also, check out these video previews from both clubs.
Lastly, check out my Three Points to the game.
Robbie Keane vs. Victor Bernárdez
The most important match up of the night, Keane will need all of his industry and ball skills to break through the burly Honduran
David Beckham and Juninho vs. Sam Cronin and Rafael Baca
Tonight's game will be decided in the midfield as the Galaxy hope to once again control the possession battle against San Jose
Bruce Arena vs. Frank Yallop
The two veteran coaches are facing a major battle of wits as Arena's attack-minded Galaxy squad look to break through Yallop's physical Earthquakes.
PREDICTED LINEUP: Saunders; Franklin, Gonzalez, Meyer, Dunivant; Donovan, Sarvas, Juninho, Beckham; Buddle, Keane
After conceding a goal in the late stages of the Western Conference Semifinal First Leg, the LA Galaxy have all to play for in tonight's second leg at Buck Shaw Stadium.
CARSON, Calif. – Last season, the LA Galaxy dominated the MLS Regular Season en route to the Supporters’ Shield title and then eventually cut through the MLS Cup Playoffs to win the 2011 MLS Cup.
With potentially just 90 minutes remaining in their season, the LA Galaxy agree that without a title their season cannot be judged as a success. Currently down 1-0 to the San Jose Earthquakes heading into the Western Conference Semifinal Second Leg, the Galaxy need to win to force extratime and potentially penalties.
Only if LA can beat San Jose by more than two goals, then the Galaxy will advance to the Western Conference Championship for the fourth straight season. A loss or tie and the Galaxy will head home.
Below head coach Bruce Arena, midfielder David Beckham, and Landon Donovan state that LA’s season can only be judged a success is if the Galaxy win the title.
ARENA: “I don’t mind judging our team that way. That means that we’ve built a good team and have high expectation so when you fall short of a championship then it’s disappointing. I don’t mind living with that as opposed to the other way and never being in position to succeed in anything. I think that’s okay. That’s what sport is and we don’t mind the pressure of trying to be a champion.”
BECKHAM: “there’s no season that can be a success if you don’t win any silverware at the end of it. We enjoyed that, we had a taste of it last season, we loved it. Of course, any season without a championship is unsuccessful.”
DONOVAN: “For this team yeah. There’s a lot invested in this team, both financially and otherwise. We get great support and there’s high expectations and that’s part of it. For us, the goal is to win a championship and we got a big hurdle on Wednesday, but we think that we can do it.
CARSON Calif. – The San Jose Earthquakes are saying all the right things by promising that they will not sit back and defend their 1-0 series lead on the LA Galaxy on Wednesday, but the Galaxy are expecting plenty of scoring chances at Buck Shaw Stadium as they look to comeback in the Western Conference Semifinal.
LA dominated possession 57.2 to 42.8 while generating a number of scoring chances that appeared far more than the 12 to eight margin. The Galaxy also had a wide lead in crosses by 21 to 11 margin, despite flank play being a major strength for San Jose throughout the season. However, despite all the chances and pressure, LA was unable to break through, eventually falling on Victor Bernárdez’s stoppage time winner.
As LA prepare for Wednesday’s Western Conference Semifinal, they expect a similar defensive shape from San Jose.
“I’m sure they’ll be a little bit more cautious then they have been. They’ve played that system all season and they haven’t changed but who knows. The two midfielders kept the same shape, but they weren’t pushing forward, but they were just sitting in front of the back four,” said forward Robbie Keane. “So they were probably watching the Vancouver that was the same scenario with the two midfielders not moving. That will be the case and they probably want six players back at all time and let the four forwards to try to cause us a bit of mayhem.”
Midfielder David Beckham is quick to agree Keane's assessment of San Jose's tactics.
"They’ll have some kind of defensive mindset coming into the game because obviously they’ll be up 1-0, so they’ll be going into the game like that," said Beckham. "They’ll be cautious, but they’ll be aware of what we can do and our firepower and what we'll be coming there and trying to achieve."
With his movement on both sides of the ball and scoring touch, Keane is vital part of that firepower that Beckham mentions. Keane has had considerable success against the Earthquakes in the past, including scoring a goal during LA’s last trip to San Jose, a match that ended in a 2-2 draw.
However, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena admitted that while he expects San Jose to try to hold the result, how the Earthquakes line up at the opening whistle is of little concern to him because his club needs to put their chances away.
“I can’t spend too much time figuring out what they’re going to do. When they roll out the ball for the opening kickoff then that will get sorted out, regardless of what they do,” said Arena. “We need to win the game and we need to score a goal. We had those [scoring] opportunities the other night and fell short. Once again, we have the challenge of getting some goals to position them to fight back.”
CARSON, Calif. – Christian Wilhelmsson is healthy once again and targeting a significant role in Wednesday’s Western Conference Semifinal Second Leg against the San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium.
Right quadriceps tightness caused Wilhelmsson to miss last Thursday’s Knockout Round match against Vancouver Whitecaps FC before he served as an unused substitute in Sunday’s loss to the Earthquakes. However, ahead of the second leg, Wilhelmsson has declared himself ready to participate.
“I’m good, unfortunately this injury was bad timing [coming] before Thursday’s game, but we made it through and now we’re looking forward to get out there. I’m okay again. It’s going to be nice to get out there again,” said Wilhelmsson. “It was frustrating. I felt good in the days after the game in Seattle [where Wilhelmsson started and went 90 minutes]. I felt I was in a good way and then it came. At the same time, it was good that it was not serious so it didn’t take long to get back.”
Wilhelmsson could be a dangerous weapon for the Galaxy on Wednesday as he had a great degree of success in the two teams last regular season meeting in October. During his 79 minutes of action, Wilhelmsson was active from the start, forcing goalkeeper Jon Busch to make a save in the opening minutes before playing a role in both LA goals in the 2-2 draw.
If he takes the field on Wednesday, it will be the first time that the Swedish International has taken part in a playoff match in his career after spending considerable time in Europe and Asia. However, the Swede, who likens the MLS Cup Playoffs to a Cup tournament, has some wise words for his teammates.
“You have to focus on yourself. We know the basics of what they’re good at and what they’re going to do. But you have to focus on your thing, what you’re going to do, and how you’re going to go out there and perform,” said Wilhelmsson. “All the players involved have to do 100 percent of their job and focus on what we need to do to get the job done.”
“It is one goal [deficit] only,” Wilhelmsson added. “We are there to score goals and even if we were home and away, we can score more than one goal. That is not the pressure that is on our shoulders right now, we’re going to go out and do a job a 100 percent and we will get that goal.”
The LA Galaxy may be hours away from their most important match of the season, but it is never too early to save the date for next year's CONCACAF Champions League.
On Monday, CONCACAF announced the dates for the CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal round that begins in March of 2013. The LA Galaxy will take on Club Sport Herediano in the Quarterfinal stage with the first leg taking place in San Jose, Costa Rica on March 4 while the second leg will take place at The Home Depot Center on March 11.
The league released their final injury report ahead of the Western Conference Semifinal Second Legs on Tuesday evening.
Below are the injury reports for the LA Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes
LA -- OUT: DF A.J. DeLaGarza (L knee sprain); DF Leonardo (R knee inflammation); MF Kyle Nakazawa (back spasms); QUESTIONABLE: DF David Junior Lopes (facial fracture); MF Christian Wilhelmsson (R quad tightness)
San Jose - OUT: MF Mehdi Ballouchy (L knee ACL tear); MF Jacob Hustedt (L ankle surgery); DF Tim Ward (L non-specific soft tissue injury); PROBABLE: MF Cesar Diaz Pizarro (R groin strain); FW Alan Gordon (R ankle sprain)