Tomorrow is the third and final California Clásico of the MLS 2016 season and fireworks are in store both during and after the match. In their prior two renditions, both at the StubHub, LA Galaxy (5-3-7) defeated (3-1) and tied (1-1) the San Jose Earthquakes (5-4-6), but currently, just one point separates the two rivals in the Western Standings.
Both teams drew ties in their last MLS matches (the Earthquakes came back for a dramatic draw in a memorable Orlando FC away match on a touching Orlando United night; the Galaxy eeked out a scoreless draw against a visiting Colorado Rapids on midweek Pride Night), yet San Jose’s was seen as a ‘win’ whereas LA’s was categorized as a disappointment extending their scoreless streak to 302 minutes. While both squads have depleted offense due to the continuing Copa America with Chris Wondolowski out for SJ along with LA’s Gyasi Zardes, and Robbie Keane out for the Euros, the Earthquakes boast an unbeaten record at Avaya Stadium (5-0-2) and 11 wins out of the 12 prior clasicos played in Northern California against their Southern rivals.
San Jose’s been winless in the past four league matches, while the Galaxy are now winless in the last six. The Galaxy, seemingly stuck in a holding pattern while waiting out the return of Zardes and Keane (Recap: LA vs COL), are betting on a more game fit Giovani dos Santos and Steven Gerrard to give them the stability and creative dose needed to convincingly push their way into the final third with some flare and focus. To add to their list of woes, it’s been a tough schedule this week with three games in a span of seven days. They’ll be focusing on helping their rotating offense in the absense of Zardes’ speed and agility, and Keane’s leadership. Wednesday’s captain, Nigel de Jong, pointed to the lack of consistency as an issue for the midfield in providing for the players up top, while indicating his eagerness in seeing Gerrard return to the pitch.
“I haven’t played with consistent players in that position for 15 games,” he admitted at the end of Wednesday’s match against Colorado in post-game. “It was me, or it was Stevie that was out, Baggio [Husidic] was out, Jeff [Larentowicz) came in. So we need to provide the offensive line obviously, also with more creativity. It’s not only the problem with the forwards. It has to come from somewhere – the back and the midfielders as well. I’m happy Stevie is back for the next game because he will provide that piece of creativity…”
San Jose may be without one of season goal-leading firecracker but they still have the Panamanian duo of Anibal Godoy and Alberto Quintero, plus a healthier Simon Dawkins. Add to that playmaker Matias Perez Garcia and seasoned Quincy Amarikwa, and they have themselves a potential fireworks display against Brian Rowe and his back line who will step up their game no doubt, hopefully with a return of Ashley Cole who missed Wednesday’s match due to minor injury. LA’s Daniel Steres is on the yllow card caution accumulations warnings list with 4 games remaining to be on the good behavior list, but also on that list are SJ’s likely starters Fatai Alashe and Godoy.
On the positive side, the Cali Clásico is one of the healthiest rivalries in MLS, based soundly in the fundamentals of passionate fandome and rooted in history, player trades (‘defections’) and record attendance. This match at Stanford Stadium will feature pre-game ball delivery via skydivers, a tibute to the armed forces at halftime, a flag display of all 20 MLS teams, plus a fireworks show at the end of the game, and it’s expected to draw a crowd over 50,000 as usual. Strap in for a fun ride!
For the first time since 1999, an MLS match will be on Univision’s flagship station (right after the USA-Colombia Copa America match).
Details: SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES vs. LA GALAXY
STANFORD STADIUM, San Jose, Calif.
June 25, 2016 (Week 16, MLS Game #160)
10 pm ET (Univision in USA; MLS LIVE in Canada)