CARSON, Calif. — The LA Galaxy are headed back up to the Bay Area on Saturday when they head to Stanford Stadium to take on the San Jose Earthquakes (7 p.m.; SpectrumSN).
And the location for the first Cali-Clasico of 2019 matters almost more than who the opponent is.
The Galaxy should consider Stanford Stadium — not the usual home of the Earthquakes — a house of horrors. In seven regular-season meetings, the Galaxy (10-6-1; 31 pts) have just one win and have only taken points away from Palo Alto two other times (1-4-2).
Last year, a 3-1 lead after the 25th-minute turned into a 3-3 draw. And when the average attendance for those seven games crests over 50,000, you know that it doesn’t get more hostile for the Galaxy this year.
The Earthquakes (6-6-4; 22 pts), after starting the first six games of the season with just a single win (and five losses), are now undefeated in their last five (3-0-2) and have climbed to sixth in the Western Conference.
And under the direction of head coach Matias Almeyda, the hapless Earthquakes of 2018 – finishing with the worst record in the league – are now a force to take seriously.
“It’s a very important three points for us,” Galaxy Head Coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto told reporters on Thursday. “I think it will be very emotional for us and them because it’s a derby. Everyone wants to win. There will be a lot of people, maybe 50 or 60,000 people in the stadium.
“I think everyone will be very excited to play.”
Schelotto’s side should gain some advantage from having a full week to recover from their trip to Cincinnati after a 2-0 victory. San Jose, on the other hand, had to host the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday night – leaving just two days of rest between games.
Schelotto and Almeyda also have a history. With Schelotto helming Boca Juniors in Argentina and Almeyda having led River Platte back to the first division before heading to Mexico and Chivas de la Guadalajara. Just the hint of that epic rivalry – Boca vs. River – is enough to ratchet up an already heated matchup.
“I know him,” Schelotto says of his opposite, Almeyda. “I think he’s trying to make changes from last year in San Jose. They’re improving a lot; they won last night (2-0 over Houston). He’s very smart, but we know what he will try.”
The Galaxy sit second in the Western Conference, and third overall in the league. But their form is in constant flux. But they’re looking to set that straight in the difficult second-half of the season.
“I think we should continue to try what we have been doing in practice, the training and in the games sometimes you get credit for it, sometimes not,” Galaxy Captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic said of the team’s offense. “As long as you continue to try the goals will come. We just have to focus and score.”
And Schelotto also wants to see improvement. Adding “We need to be more consistent game by game. We lost some games here at home, and we need to be a little smarter.”
The Galaxy are looking to extend their road winning streak to four games. And they’ll need to do that still missing their four internationals (Jonathan dos Santos, Uriel Antuna, Giancarlo Gonzalez, and Rolf Feltscher), and missing Jorgen Skjelvik with a toe injury.
Sebastian Lletget, who left training early on Thursday with some fatigue, should still be available for the match on Saturday, and the Galaxy should be looking at a very similar lineup to last weekend’s victory.
This is the start of a crucial period for the Galaxy. The second 17 games of the season will define the success or failure of the club. And for a team that is still figuring itself out, getting thrown into one of the biggest games of the season might just find them at their best.
“It’s a big game, a derby, but we feel ready to play,” Schelotto explained. “These are the kinds of games everyone wants to play and coach in.”