Jun 30, 2018; San Jose, CA, USA; Los Angeles Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic (9) celebrates after scoring on a free kick against the San Jose Earthquakes during the first half at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
STANFORD, Calif. — The California Clasico at Stanford Stadium rarely disappoints. For the announced 50,743 that filled the home of the Cardinal on Saturday, it was the Zlatan and Wondo show as the San Jose Earthquakes and LA Galaxy played to an entertaining 3-3 draw.
“The atmosphere in the stands was absolutely fantastic,” Quakes head coach Mikael Stahre said. “We wanted to give something back to our fantastic fans and reward them with three points but we were just missing one goal.”
Zlatan Ibrahimović got the party started early. In just the first minute of the game, he volleyed an unstoppable shot from inside the area that left Quakes goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell waving at air and the team staring at another deficit.
“It’s hard this year,” midfielder Florian Jungwirth said. “It has happened a lot of times, so we’re at a point where we can’t get angry about it because it happens almost every game. We know that we have to continue, and we know that we have a lot of good players, especially on the offense, so we knew we could score. We knew we could turn the game.”
San Jose — who trailed LA in all six previous California Clasico games at Stanford before coming back to win four of those matches and tie one — got its turn and equalized in the 15th minute when Chris Wondolowski tapped home the rebound of his missed penalty kick attempt.
The Galaxy quickly regained the lead and built it to two goals following successive free kick strikes from Romain Alessandrini and Ibrahimović. Both shots seemed to surprise Tarbell, as the ‘keeper was nowhere near either shot attempt.
It could have been demoralizing to fall behind 3-1, but the Quakes, feeding off the energy of the huge crowd backing them up, fought their way back into the game.
“We never thought about giving up, especially tonight in front of 50,000 people,” Danny Hoesen said. “We wanted to show some heart, show some character and get back into the game. That was the message as well at halftime. We had a feeling that we could score goals against this team and come back, and luckily we did.”
The Earthquakes clawed one back in the 42nd minute after a dazzling run by Valeri “Vako” Qazaishvili unlocked the LA defense. The Georgian midfielder was assisted on the goal, his fourth of the season, by Fatai Alashe, who started the sequence with a good run from the defensive side of the field.
The five-goal outburst in the first half came about from 12 total shots by the two rival sides. Neither Tarbell nor LA goalkeeper David Bingham looked all that comfortable between the posts. Together they combined for only one save — Bingham’s initial stop on Wondolowski’s PK shot — in the first 45 minutes.
Ibrahimović was denied a potential hat trick in the 47th minute, when Tarbell recorded his first stop of the night on another free kick attempt by the Swedish superstar.
Tarbell’s vital save was rewarded when, in the 69th minute, the Earthquakes tied the score 3-3. It was Wondolowski getting his second goal of the night, this time with a successful penalty kick. The score gave him 140 career goals, just five behind Landon Donovan for the MLS all-time record.
“He’s an excellent penalty-taker,” Hoesen said. “He does it in training all the time. With the second one, you saw how badly he wanted it. He put it away with a lot of power.”
The game opened up over the last 20 minutes, as both sides looked for a game-winner. The Quakes brought in Shea Salinas, last year’s hero at Stanford after scoring a stoppage-time goal in a 2-1 victory, in the 79th minute to recharge the offense. But the Galaxy defense absorbed every attacking foray.
The Earthquakes came close in the 90th minute as Salinas drove the ball into the area and spotted Wondolowski making a run. He laid the ball off to the captain, who turned to fire a shot that eluded Bingham, but it rattled off the goal post.
Wondolowski’s shot was the closest San Jose came to earning yet another comeback victory at Stanford. The game ended with the Earthquakes on the ascension. The last touch of the night came via Hoesen, who handled the ball in the box to halt a promising Quakes attack.
“The second half was a lot better, and we were more dangerous,” Hoesen said. “Chris Wondolowski hit the post in the last minute and we felt like we missed a little bit, but overall 3-3 is a point. It’s still not a win, but it’s a positive.”
The tie was the third in a row for San Jose, drawing them level with the Seattle Sounders and Colorado Rapids for 10th place in the Western Conference, but keeping them well behind the leaders. The result was also a setback for the Galaxy, who remain below the playoff line in the West.
“I don’t know if a tie is fair,” Bingham said. “We had the better of them. We had a couple more chances that we should have finished. With where they’re at in the table, a tie pretty much eliminates them from the playoffs. They’re pretty much done. For us, a tie on the road is always a decent result, but when you are up 3-1 and the game ends 3-3, you have to do better than that.”