STANFORD, Calif. — A Cali Clasico record crowd of 50,850 at Stanford Stadium enjoyed a dominant 3-0 win by the San Jose Earthquakes over the rival LA Galaxy Saturday night, continuing their run of excellence in MLS play.
Valeri “Vako” Qazaishvili continued his torrid scoring pace, striking first in the 11th minute, running his goals streak to six in all competitions. The Quakes then held firm on defense, with late goals from Shea Salinas and Tommy Thompson providing the final tally on the night.
“This was a big game, and it’s always fun to score in front of 50,000 people,” Salinas said. “But overall the guys played unbelievable tonight. Our team really fought all night. It was a battle and guys were winning their battles, and I think we could have scored more goals. It was a good game for us.”
The victory by the Earthquakes (7-6-4, 25 points) elevated them to fifth place in the Western Conference at the halfway point of the MLS season. San Jose is 6-1-4 in its last 11 games in league play.
“Obviously with the result we are very happy,” Quakes coach Matias Almeyda said. “But the greatest joy I have is that the players played the same way as they trained. And I liked it because when I arrived they were somewhat low, but now they know they can compete toe-to-toe with anybody.”
The first 10 minutes were played at a frenetic pace, with both sides getting forward into attack. The Quakes tested goalkeeper David Bingham early, but the former San Jose netminder had little trouble making a pair of comfortable saves. He wouldn’t be so lucky in the 11th minute.
On a free kick from 30 yards out, the Earthquakes elected to run a set play, kicking the ball short and looking for a gap in the Galaxy back line. But the visitors sniffed out the play, knocking aside the first follow-up pass. Fortunately for San Jose, it fell to the feet of Vako, and he unleashed a low shot to the far post that beat Bingham and gave the Quakes a 1-0 lead.
Vako singlehandedly tried to double the advantage over the next quarter hour, twice dazzling on the dribble and testing the Galaxy defense. The efforts didn’t pay off, but it was an impressive display by the confident Georgian midfielder.
LA stayed patient, however, and eventually saw more of the ball in the attacking half. Their best scoring chance of the first half came in the 38th minute, as Dave Romney pushed up from his defensive position to blast a long range shot that required a diving save by Daniel Vega. Zlatan Ibrahimovic finally got his head on the ball in the 44th minute, but his redirected corner kick flew safely into Vega’s gloves.
The second half started out all Galaxy (10-7-1, 31 points), as the visitors twice had good looks at an equalizer. It was a bit of a warning to Almeyda’s men not to rest on their lead, one they were slow to heed. But the Earthquakes eventually returned to their more aggressive man-marking style and stymied the LA comeback attempt.
In the 58th minute, Emmanuel Boateng got loose down the left sideline, stretching the Quakes defense and opening a channel for Ibrahimovic in the area. But just as the pass arrived to the big Swede, Judson streaked in with a shot-stopping tackle to deny the Galaxy’s leading scorer a chance to tie the game. No one could prevent Joe Corona from sending in a long-range rocket in the 61st minute, but Vega was there to catch the ball right in the bread basket.
The Earthquakes bent, but wouldn’t break, and in the 65th minute it looked like they had doubled their lead. Some clever passing at the top of the area on a counterattack eventually provided Magnus Eriksson space to deliver Chris Wondolowski the ball at the penalty spot. The Quakes captain cleverly chipped Bingham, sending the crowd into hysterics, but the assistant referee raised his flag for offside, and the goal was waved off.
San Jose should have done better in the 74th minute, as Espinoza delivered a perfect cross field pass to Vako in acres of space on the left side of the area. The midfielder weaved his way to the top of the box before backheeling the ball into the path of Eriksson. With no one to beat but Bingham, Eriksson curled a ball that flew just over the crossbar.
Jun 29, 2019; San Jose, CA, USA; LA Galaxy starting eleven pose for a photo before a game against the San Jose Earthquakes at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
It was Espinoza’s last action of the game, as Salinas entered in the 75th minute for the Argentinean. Right away, the hero of the 2017 Cali Clasico got involved in the action, pinning the Galaxy defense back in their area and narrowly missing Wondolowski on a cross attempt. His second effort would not go unrewarded.
In the 82nd minute, Salinas received a perfect pass from Vako on the right side of the area and quickly darted towards goal. Catching his defender flat-footed, Salinas rifled a shot to the far post that caromed into the back of the net, prompting Salinas to rip off his jersey, just like his famous Alan Gordon-inspired celebration back in 2017, and race to the corner flag in jubilation.
“Just before that, I had tried to put the ball between the defender’s legs to get the ball to Wondo and he blocked it,” Salinas said. “So the next one set up perfectly, and I was able to put my head down and hit it hard far post, and thank God it went in.”
“I didn’t really want to take my shirt off,” Salinas added with a laugh. “But I felt like if I didn’t, I would have received a lot of strife from my teammates, so I went ahead and did it, and it was fun.”
The goal seemed to deflate the Galaxy, and less than three minutes later, the Quakes were on the scoreboard once again when Thompson’s blast from the penalty spot deflected past Bingham for a goal to push the lead to 3-0 for San Jose. It was Thompson’s first home goal with the Earthquakes, and he enjoyed the moment, even if it appeared at first to be an own goal.
“You’ve got to claim anything that comes your way, so, yeah, that’s my goal,” Thompson said. “I always planned on one day scoring against the LA Galaxy in the Clasico, so I’m really happy it happened tonight.”
All that was left was for Vega to make one more impressive save, and the Earthquakes soon celebrated their biggest Cali Clasico victory in front of the biggest crowd at Stanford Stadium.
“When you win 3-0 against your biggest rival in front of that crowd, it makes me really proud,” centerback Florian Jungwirth, the Quakes’ Man of the Match, said. “Especially in the second half, it was a fight, and we knew at 1-0 it could change at any time, but I had a feeling that when we put more pressure on them, the crowd helped to support us. They played their role, definitely.”
For the Quakes, it was their second straight shutout victory, and their sixth straight game without a lose. And with another three points, the result pushed them into fifth place in the Western Conference at the halfway point of the season.
Up next is a road trip to face Minnesota United before returning to Avaya Stadium to play Real Salt Lake. In less than two weeks, the Earthquakes will face the Galaxy once again, looking to win the season series over their biggest rivals.