SAN JOSE, Calif. — On the eve of the biggest game on their calendar, the San Jose Earthquakes trained on the field of Stanford Stadium, the site of the second California Clasico of the season with the LA Galaxy, looking forward to exacting a measure of revenge against their intrastate rivals.
A month ago, the Galaxy beat the Quakes 1-0 on a wonder-goal from Romain Alessandrini at StubHub Center, as former San Jose goalkeeper David Bingham preserved the win with a stunning save on Danny Hoesen’s attempt at a late game equalizer.
On Saturday, in front of a crowd expected to exceed 50,000, the Earthquakes will look to turn the tables and walk away with a victory of their own.
“We know a lot about them already,” Quakes head coach Mikael Stahre told Pro Soccer USA, “but we most focus on our performance and find the right way to play and use our players in the best possible way. Of course, it will be a really exciting game to play. Everyone talks about the atmosphere at the Clasico, and I am sure it will be fun.”
The two teams, both below the playoffs line in the Western Conference, have yet to find their stride this season, but when it comes to predicting the winner of the California Clasico, the only certainty is that they’ll be plenty of fireworks between the two rivals. The Quakes have had the better of the Galaxy in the six rivalry games played at Stanford, earning a 4-1-1 record, including last year’s dramatic 2-1 win on Shea Salinas’ stoppage time goal.
“Playing at home will help us, for sure,” defender Jimmy Ockford said. “Having all those fans behind us, packing the stadium, will be a big lift. We are confident going into it.”
San Jose’s annual summer showcase game at Stanford also features its most vocal crowd, and that support has propelled the Quakes through to the final minute. This year’s spectacle will feature LA forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and the intensity of Saturday evening’s game has the potential to reach an all-time high in the series. Ockford, who has started the last seven games after making only one MLS appearance prior to this season, is looking forward to the challenge of marking the Swedish superstar.
“It is going to be surreal, for sure,” Ockford said. “I definitely watched him when I was growing up, and just to be on the same field and playing against him is going to be an amazing experience. But you just have to go in like it is any other game and hopefully try to dominate him.”
The Galaxy haven’t played since June 9, dominating Real Salt Lake to the tune of 3-0, so they are well rested. The Earthquakes, however, have played twice since that date, earning two draws, including a hard-fought 1-1 result at RSL, and hope to carry that momentum into Saturday night.
“It should be a good game, a real test for us,” Ockford said. “If we can come out strong against them like we did the last time, minus their pretty lucky goal, hopefully we can come out on top this time.”
The Quakes have yet to post a shutout this season, but that game at LA in late May was one of the better defensive performances they have produced. For Stahre, who has focused his attention on preparing for the Galaxy during a full week of training, the adjustments will be minor in his formation as he looks to guide the team past a seven game winless streak.
“We will focus on the individual assignments and the game plan,” Stahre said. “Of course, we handled the defensive part of the game in LA really good. Yes, we conceded a goal in the last phase of the game, but we kept them out, actually, in a good way. It is always about fine tuning things throughout and also about the communication among the players we hope to improve.”
A San Jose win would do little to change the standings in the West — the Galaxy are nine points ahead of the Quakes going into the weekend — but the emotional lift it would provide would be invaluable. And that it would come against LA would make a victory even sweeter, which is all the motivation anyone in black and blue needs.
“Definitely more excited than just butterflies, for sure,” Ockford said.
When: June 30, 7:00 p.m. Pacific Time
Where: Stanford Stadium, Stanford, CA.
Broadcast: UniMás, KNBR 1050
Live Stream: Twitter, ESPN+
Earthquakes injury report: Questionable: Shea Salinas (hamstring)