STANFORD, Calif. – LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena’s message to the LA Galaxy before their 1-0 California Clasico victory over the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday was a simple yet profound one.
“Let’s start our season today.”
With just 12 games played in the league and no extracurricular tournaments lying in wait after the team’s unceremonious exit from the U.S. Open Cup, the message rang clear for a group that has been inconsistent to start the year. Those woes appeared behind them against their fiercest rivals as the Galaxy controlled the tempo for wide stretches and found the goal they needed through Gyasi Zardes’ winner in the 61st minute.
“Overall, this was our best effort as a team in terms of our concentration over 90 minutes,” said Arena after the match. “This is a game that we deserved to win and we’ve been certainly pushing our group to perform like this.”
Throughout the match, the Galaxy dominated possession, which prevented San Jose from feeding off the energy of the 50,006 fans at Stanford Stadium. The Galaxy silenced the crowd in the 61st minute when LA completed more than six passes before Marcelo Sarvas laid off a ball for Zardes who smashed it into the back of the net.
After the match, Landon Donovan took a moment to appreciate LA’s stellar team finish.
"If Barcelona scored that goal, we'd be talking about it for weeks. It was a good sequence where we kept the ball well," said Landon Donovan. "Great ball by Robbie [Keane], Great run by Marcelo and Gyasi Zardes peeled off with a great run and finish. I think that it was as good a team goal as you'll see in the league."
As brilliant as the goal was, the team’s defensive effort was equally impressive, as late lapses have proved fatal for the Galaxy in San Jose in recent years. Despite being put under pressure repeatedly by Steven Lenhart and the rest of the Earthquakes' attack, the Galaxy’s youthful center back tandem of Tommy Meyer and Kofi Opare held firm.
With the defensive pair in control, goalkeeper Jaime Penedo saw limited action, needing to make just one tough save in the waning moments to preserve the result.
“We talked over the last three days about concentrating for 90 minutes. We played really well over lots of games, but we’ve lost our concentration lots of times. Tonight, everyone was tuned in,” said Donovan. “When one guy couldn’t make a play, the next guy made the play and, especially, on the road, we have to play like that. I thought we were excellent.”
For all the talk of a possible turnaround for the Galaxy or a new beginning, Arena was quick to bring the optimism back to earth.
“It’s only our 13th game of the season,” Arena said with a grin. “I’m not ready to hold a parade through Downtown Los Angeles. We’ll see if we can keep going.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com.