SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Tommy Meyer played the game of his life Wednesday night, giving a splendid performance alongside Omar Gonzalez as the LA Galaxy dominated the Supporters' Shield-winning San Jose Earthquakes to advance to the Western Conference Championship.
The rookie out of Indiana University was nearly flawless in central defense, producing perhaps his best performance since turning pro. He also delivered a terrific long ball to Landon Donovan to help set up Robbie Keane's crucial second goal, the one that gave LA the aggregate advantage in their 3-1 victory over the Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium and erased Sunday’s 1-0 first-leg defeat.
Consider it Meyer's coming-out party.
“I don't know about that,” he said modestly.
But Donovan does.
“Tommy became a man tonight,” the Galaxy captain said. “We're going to need that at least two more times, hopefully three more times, out of him. And if he plays like that, we've really got a chance.”
Meyer has been stationed next to Gonzalez, 2011 MLS Defender of the Year, since A.J. DeLaGarza went down with a sprained MCL at the end of September. He's grown up in seven starts since then, though it’s been something of a baptism by fire. He's been solid one moment, mistake-prone the next and not always precise with the ball at his feet.
But on Wednesday, he and Gonzalez outmuscled bruising Quakes forward Steven Lenhart, again kept MLS Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski off the scoreboard and were pivotal as LA won second balls again and again. Meyer came up huge several times in the penalty box, most impressively at the end of the first half, shutting down Lenhart after he'd beaten Gonzalez on the dribble.
“[Meyer is] moving along well,” Gonzalez noted. “This is a time when we need him to be at his best, and I think he's doing that. He's part of the reason why we won tonight, and I think he did great.”
Was it Meyer's best performance with the Galaxy?
“Yeah, I think so,” Gonzalez said. “We were being put under a lot of pressure, and we did well to work together. If he went up for a ball, then I went behind him, and if I went up for a ball, then he was there to scoop up the second ball. I thought we did great together.”
Keane was also impressed.
“I thought Tommy and Omar were brilliant,” the Irish striker said. “Always tough when you play against big lads up front who like to battle, and that's [San Jose’s] game, to hustle and bustle. The lads [at the back], I thought, were superb.”
Meyer said responding correctly to the Quakes' physical style was key.
“Obviously, you have to be more physical with these guys – that's something I learned from the last time I played them when we were here [on Oct. 21] and at our place [in the first leg],” he said. “I've been confident for a while now. I made some progress over the last couple of months, just with help from the coaching staff and having Omar and people around me helping me get better.”