In the lead up to Saturday's California Clasico match between the LA Galaxy and the San Jose Earthquakes, I spoke with the finest reporter covering the Earthquakes beat, Robert Jonas.
Jonas of Centerline Soccer and Quake, Rattle and Goal broke down the Earthquakes and their recent struggles. Currently, San Jose is in eighth place in the Western Conference, but just three points behind fifth place Seattle Sounders FC for the final playoff berth -- albeit with two extra games played.
LA Galaxy Insider: What's the Earthquakes' mindset heading into this game?
JONAS: "Unlike last year where they were willing to stand toe to toe with teams and outslug them in 3-2 games, this year -- especially under new head coach Mark Watson -- they've been becoming a more defensive team and are trying to choose their chances on offense carefully. They're not getting the same type of service that they were last year, so the 72 goals that they scored last year was certainly an aberration, and they're well below that this year. This year, they've tried to manage the game the best that they can on the defensive side and take their chances selectively on offense."
LAGI: With the Earthquakes taking few chances does it limit the effectiveness of Alan Gordon, Steven Lenhart and Chris Wondolowski?
JONAS: “It limits the chances that [the forwards] are getting which is the reason that their goals are down. A 1-0 game gets the same number of points as a 3-2 win, so they’re not getting the chances to pump in as many goals. Are they less effective? I think you’re seeing them play a little farther back on the field, especially Wondolowski, who is willing to track back on the defensive side. It’s definitely affected his goal output and it’s not surprising given the mentality change.”
LAGI: The Earthquakes will be without the services of Victor Bernardez, Rafael Baca and Justin Morrow due to suspension, how will this impact the team?
JONAS: “It is a big loss for the Quakes, but nothing that they haven’t experience all season as injuries and suspensions have been a running theme this year. With Victor Bernárdez, you’ll probably see Jason Hernandez pair up with Clarence Goodson in central defense. Jason has a lot of experience with the Earthquakes and is the longest tenured Earthquake at the moment. He’s played in the last couple of games so he has his feet under him, so that should be an easy switch. Maybe he’s not as effective, but definitely someone who is comfortable out there. The big question is who replaces Rafael Baca as he and Sam Cronin have formed an almost anonymous central midfield duo that works extremely hard on the defensive side ball and so effectively together that it’s a big question mark. A player like Walter Martinez might be able to step in there as he did so earlier in the season as an almost attacking midfielder, which would allow Cronin to drop into a defensive midfield role. In talking to Mark Watson, he’s keeping his options open and is still considering guys who slide in there like wingers Marvin Chavez and Jaime Alas or even a wildcard like the defensive-minded Brad Ring.”
LAGI: The Earthquakes will be going up against LA's physical center back tandem of Leonardo and Omar Gonzalez, might their physicality hamper the San Jose attack?
JONAS: “It’s an issue that has presented itself all season. Any physical center back duo has given Alan Gordon, Steven Lenhart and Chris Wondolowski trouble. The Earthquakes aren’t going to sneak up on anyone anymore, so if a lot of the game is dependent on aerial attack then a lot of defenders can key in on that and do an effective job of stopping them. The fact that Omar Gonzalez is such an effective player in the air, is not going to do the Earthquakes any favors.”
LAGI: How can the Earthquakes win this game?
JONAS: “For the Earthquakes to even get a result, they’re going to have to complement the playing style of LA. From my perspective, it’s all about limiting the passes, limiting the attacking runs that LA does so well in the attacking third, and maybe playing deeper in the field. We know how dangerous that LA is on the counter attack and I think that we’re going to have to see the same thing out of the Earthquakes if they’re going to go poach goals in this game. For them to get all three points, it starts with playing strong defensively and keeping the game scoreless as long as possible, and then poaching a goal in the second half. This isn’t the Goonies anymore. They don’t just come back naturally—or unnaturally if you will—they have to be much more disciplined with their chances.”
LAGI: Your prediction?
JONAS: “I predict that the Earthquakes can keep it close for a while, but given their struggles and the fact that they have one road victory in all competitions this season, a draw would be the best case scenario. But I see a late goal leading to a loss.”
In the latest edition of View from the Booth, Joe Tutino and Cobi Jones analyze the California Clasico between the LA Galaxy and the San Jose Earthquakes.
Check it out below...
CARSON, Calif. – Landon Donovan is back with the full U.S. National Team.
Donovan and Omar Gonzalez both received calls to join the U.S. squad for their World Cup qualifiers and each spoke about the task ahead of them in this piece on LAGalaxy.com.
The call for Donovan is his first World Cup qualifier call since June of last year and Gonzalez is particularly enthusiastic to have him back with the full squad.
“I’m very excited to have him there,” said the Galaxy defender. “This whole year, he hasn’t been there with the national team and I think that we’re really good friends and to have him there to bounce some things off him, since he has so much experience, is going to be great for myself.
No matter the setting, Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez expect plenty of hostility at World Cup qualifier in Costa Rica
CARSON, Calif. – Next week the U.S. National Team will travel to Costa Rica for a World Cup qualifier that could put them another step closer to qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
However, this time around, the U.S. won’t be playing the Costa Ricans at the famed Estadio Saprissa where they are winless in qualifying matches, but the brand new Estadio Nacional. Built in 2011, the Estadio Nacional is a far more modern stadium than Saprissa and also contains a track around the pitch, which separates the intimidating Costa Rican crowd from the field. The LA Galaxy are expected to take on C.S. Cartagines at Costa Rica's national stadium on Sept. 25 due to lighting issues at Los Brumosos home stadium.
But will U.S. reap any benefits by not having to play at the famed “Monster's Cave”?
“In my opinion, Saprissa is the hardest place to play in CONCACAF so it can’t hurt. That’s for sure,” said Donovan. “But any time that you play Costa Rica at home or away, we expect a difficult game so we expect that same.”
No matter where they play, Gonzalez is sure that they’ll get a great deal of flak on the field and in the stands after their epic “Snowclasico” World Cup qualifier in Denver in March that saw the U.S. defeat Los Ticos 1-0 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
“I think that it’ll be a hostile environment and they’re not going to make it easy for us,” said Gonzalez. “That’s something that we already expect going into those countries. I think that the environment is going to make it a fun game.
“We’re going to go in there and fight hard,” Gonzalez added. “The fans are going to go give it their all and support their team, but we’re definitely going to have our backs against the wall, but it’s up to us to be united and to play the proper way and hopefully come out with three points.”
Highlights of that last meeting between Costa Rica and the U.S. are below...
Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez are off to the U.S. National Team for World Cup Qualifying.
The pair were named to head coach Jurgen Klinsmann's 23-man squad for the U.S. matches against Costa Rica in San Jose on Sept. 6 at the Estadio Nacional and against Mexico on Sept. 10 at Columbus Crew Stadium.
Donovan and Gonzalez are just two of four LA players that will not be available for the Galaxy's match against the Colorado Rapids on Sept. 7, joining Robbie Keane (Ireland) and Jaime Penedo (Panama), who were each named to their respective national teams.
The complete U.S. roster is below...
GOALKEEPERS: Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Nick Rimando
DEFENDERS: DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, Edgar Castillo, Brad Evans, Omar Gonzalez, Michael Orozco
MIDFELDERS: Kyle Beckerman, Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley, Mix Diskerud, Fabian Johnson, Jermaine Jones, Graham Zusi
FORWARDS: Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Aron Johannsson, Eddie Johnson
CARSON, Calif. – A player with Landon Donovan’s resume should certainly be among the league’s highest paid players and by reaching certain incentives, the Galaxy forward will stand head and shoulders above all others on the league’s pay scale.
According to Soccer by Ives, the four-year, $5 million a season deal that Donovan signed will make him the league’s second highest player behind U.S. teammate Clint Dempsey, but by reaching performance incentives, the Galaxy forward will be able to bypass his U.S. National Team counterpart.
Galaxy head coach and general manger Bruce Arena told reporters that it was "safe to say [Donovan's deal] is multi-year and he got a raise." When asked about his contract on Wednesday, Donovan admitted to reporters that his deal was heavily incentive-laden, but revealed that the Galaxy were more than willing to make him the league’s top paid player.
“I never made decisions for money, and I think I'm a much happier person because of it,” Donovan said on Wednesday. “At the same time, you do want to be valued and respected, so it was important for me in this process to be treated fair financially.
“The Galaxy made it clear early on that they wanted a type of deal that would give me the opportunity to be the highest-paid player in the league, if I perform well,” he added. “I think that was important to me, and I think that was fair, so we came to a good agreement.”
CARSON, Calif. -- Landon Donovan has re-signed a new multi-year deal with the LA Galaxy, but don't look for him to pursue any offseason loans in the future.
Donovan has gone on loans in the past to Bayern Munich during the 2008-09 season as well as a pair of loans to Everton in 2010 and 2012, but the U.S. international admitted after his contract announcement press conference that he's unlikely to go on loan again.
"It's not really something that I'm interested in," said Donovan. "I want to be here and I don't have a real desire to go try anything or do anything. They've committed to me and I want to commit to this team too."
In a teleconference call with reporters, Donovan was asked about his former Everton head coach David Moyes who is now the head man at Manchester United. Rumors have swirled that Donovan would be on Moyes' shortlist at United, but when asked about any conversations that he's had if with the Scottish head coach, Donovan didn't go into specifics, but dropped a hint.
“I’m not going to comment on specific conversations I may have had with David in the past," said Donovan. "But…we’ll say I had talks with some very high profile teams in England, how’s that?”
Thoughts on Donovan's comments?
Share your thoughts below.
Landon Donovan is staying with the LA Galaxy and ahead of his new deal with the club, I spoke with the Galaxy talisman about his new deal and his desire to stay in Southern California.
Check it out below.
Check out the Landon Donovan press conference below...
CARSON, Calif. – Landon Donovan is staying in MLS.
The LA Galaxy officially announced on Wednesday that Donovan has signed a multi-year contract to remain with LA.
Thoughts on the move?