The LA Galaxy last played a league game on June 9 when they defeated Real Salt Lake 3-0 at home. It will have been 21 days since that league victory — if you exclude their US Open Cup game loss to the Portland Timbers on July 15 — when the Galaxy take the field against a familiar rival.
The San Jose Earthquakes (2-9-5) will welcome the traveling Galaxy (6-7-2) to Standford Stadium on Saturday (7:00 p.m.; Unimas) amidst a seven-game winless streak and their worst start to a season in the MLS era for the club. But they’ll be playing at a stadium that has been more than kind to them when the Cali-Clasico comes to town.
The Earthquakes hold a 12-3-7 record at “home” against the Galaxy since 2003 and a 4-1-1 record at Stanford Stadium overall. The most recent result at the stadium coming in June of 2016 where the Galaxy saw their first draw at the venue thanks to a 69th-minute goal from Giovani dos Santos (Steven Gerrard with the assist). But a late goal from Earthquakes striker Chad Barrett (90′) saw the Galaxy split the points.
The Galaxy already faced the Earthquakes earlier this season with the end result giving the team a 1-0 victory thanks to a goal from French Midfielder Romain Alessandrini. But that match was anything but the rivalries of the past. With both teams seemingly more focused on not being terrible and less on any ill will toward their opponent.
But that’s likely to change on Saturday.
With a near-capacity crowd expected — the stadium holds over 50,000 — and the Earthquakes gaining just a little bit of form in their last two games (both draws), they’ll be looking for some series revenge.
“I heard it’s a crazy crowd,” Galaxy striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic said after training on Thursday. “A lot of people coming to watch. That is what we like — when we play (in a) full house.”
The Galaxy will get Ibrahimovic back on the team sheet as he missed the Open Cup loss with a trip to the World Cup.
They should also get Romain Alessandrini (Quad Injury) and Ola Kamara (Calf strain) back to the lineup as well. And with Giovani dos Santos and Jonathan dos Santos still plotting away in Russia for the Mexican National Team, they’ll need all the healthy bodies they can get.
Especially as midfielder Sebastian Lletget has failed to return to full training with the squad after injuring his ankle against RSL.
The Galaxy are also entering their easiest two-game stretch of the season, so far. They’ll get to play against the worst team in both conferences within a five-day stretch– the earthquakes are 22nd in league with only DC United being below them in standings at 23rd in the league (Galaxy host DC United on July 4 at StubHub Center; 7:30 p.m., SpectrumSN, SpectrumDeportes).
The Earthquakes have indicated that both Shea Salinas and Joel Qwiberg will be returning to the squad after injury but that both Panamanian internationals – Anibal Godoy and Harold Cummings – will not return from Russia in time for the Saturday night showdown.
“I look forward to the game,” Ibrahimovic said. “It will be exciting and it’s been a little break now so we’re back to work – working hard.”
The Galaxy are likely to employ the 3-5-2 on the attack with head coach Sigi Schmid seemingly convinced that having Ibrahimovic and Kamara side-by-side is what best suits the offense. That should see Bradford Jamieson IV pick up that no. 10 role in the middle of the field with Alessandrini and Emmanuel Boateng on the right and left wings respectively.
Perry Kitchen is likely to patrol just in front of the defenders with Ashley Cole playing both at left-back and transitioning into the midfield on the attack. Jorgen Skjelvik, Michael Ciani and Dave Romney will head up the defensive unit that has only allowed 3 goals in their last five games (two shutouts) will do their best at slowing down ‘Quakes leading scorer Danny Hoesen who has 10 goals on the season.
But most of the goal-scoring load will rely on Ibrahimovic’s ability to finish — something he did twice against Real Salt Lake.
And scoring first is always a good idea for the club who is 5-0-1 when getting on the scoreboard ahead of their opponent. Conversely, they’re just 1-7-0 when allowing the first goal.
But the Earthquakes haven’t been able to keep a single team off the scoresheet this season and the defense will surely feel more pressure with Alessandrini, Kamara, and Ibrahimovic pressuring goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell and the rest of the ‘Quakes defense.
With the World Cup hiatus now over with, the Galaxy’s focus on the second half of the season starts with this very important Cali-Classico. Just three points separate the Galaxy from the playoff line and with a possible six points in five days, the Galaxy could rocket up those Western Conference standings.