STANFORD, Calif. – LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena did not mince words following his team’s 3-2 defeat to the San Jose Earthquakes. And after the way that the Galaxy fell to their bitter rivals in the California Clásico, just who could blame him?
The Galaxy saw a two goal lead evaporate in the game’s final 22 minutes as the Earthquakes scored three times in the second half, including twice in second half stoppage time to defeat LA. With the result, San Jose became the first team in MLS history to win a game that they trailed in entering second half stoppage time while also being down a man.
After seeing three points vanish following stoppage time goals by Shea Salinas and Alan Gordon, Arena didn’t hold any punches when he described his team’s inability to finish the game.
“It was poor play and lack of intelligence by our team. To have a team of players and coaches that is that poor and stupid in the last five minutes of the game that’s my responsibility,” said Arena. “That can't be on anybody else but me. I’m absolutely embarrassed by that performance. Give our opponents credit, but our performance was embarrassing.”
Once Hector Jimenez scored LA’s second goal in the 65th minute, the Earthquakes sought to raise the tempo as they tried to erase the lead. This stretched a Galaxy defense that had been compact for the entirety of the match and allowed the Quakes to find spaces to exploit. The first goal came in the 68th minute when Gordon was fortunate not to draw a whistle by knocking over center back A.J. DeLaGarza in order to head a shot past Galaxy goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini from close range.
Going down a man nine minutes later after Victor Bernárdez was shown a second yellow card only encouraged the Quakes’ go for broke mentality. The tying goal came off a throw-in by Justin Morrow, which was deflected by Omar Gonzalez and A.J. DeLaGarza before Salinas seized on the opportunity and fired it into LA’s net. The disintegration was complete in the third minute of stoppage time when a series of long passes in the final third by San Jose caused LA’s back four to lose their shape allowing Gordon to slip behind Gonzalez and Sean Franklin to complete his brace with another header from close range.
“[The defense] definitely got a little bit too stretched,” said defender Omar Gonzalez. “There were times when they kept on crossing balls and we kept clearing them, but it was only their guys picking up balls with no one to pressure them. It got a little bit too stretched and we need to keep more compact next time.”
Perhaps what made the meltdown so shocking was LA’s success on both sides of the ball for the team’s opening 68 minutes. Prior to Alan Gordon’s initial goal, which cut the Galaxy lead in half, LA was a class above the Earthquakes in front of goal. In particular, the connection between Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan resulted in numerous scoring chances—two ending in the back of the net—as the Galaxy counterattack devastated the San Jose defense.
But it wasn’t just the attack that enjoyed success for much of the game as the Galaxy defense stifled San Jose’s high-pressure game early on. In the first half, San Jose was called offside seven times as LA’s organized back four stymied the Earthquakes attempts to get in behind the defense. When the Earthquakes’ attack did threaten, LA’s defense was repeatedly up to the task as the Galaxy repeatedly nodded Earthquakes crosses out of danger while Cudicini made also made three saves, all in the opening hour, to keep San Jose off the scoreboard.
However, once LA went up two goals, the pendulum swung in favor of San Jose, who wildly threw numbers forward. Despite the pressure, the Galaxy continued to push for a third goal, creating numerous chances—including three shots that forced a save from Jon Busch in the game’s final 20 minutes—the goal never came for LA as the Quakes earned win with two at the death.
“The longer you play this game, the more you see games like that where one team dominates and you don’t score and the next thing you know you’re on the losing end,” said Donovan. “It’s a tough lesson to learn and we should know better. But when you don’t score goals then you always keep teams around and we did that tonight.”
The scene in the LA locker room following the loss was understandably one of dejection as the Galaxy certainly had their opportunities, but that didn’t stop their captain from issuing a call to arms.
“Sometimes it takes a strong man to come back from defeat like this,” said Keane. “Let’s see who has some balls in the next few games.”
The Galaxy will have the chance to test their collective testicular fortitude on Thursday when they play host to the Columbus Crew. Following such a jarring defeat to a hated rival, the match against the Crew represents a chance for redemption.
“All of our hard work before stoppage time is for nothing because we threw it away at the end of the game. Like the manager said, it was stupidity,” said Keane. “But the good thing about football is that there’s always another game; for us, that’s coming up quickly on Thursday, and I’m sure the team will be ready to go.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com