Yes yes yes yes! It seems like every trip to Spartan Stadium is special these days. The Earthquakes are rife with injuries and still haven’t regained their championship form of last year, but things are starting to gel. After last week’s victory in Dallas, a win at home against our archrivals, the L.A. Galaxy, who led the Western Conference by six points, was crucial. Memories of last fall’s tremendous come-back were there, of course, but it’s important to note that of the eleven Quakes who started that game, only five of those players started this one (mainly due to injury). L.A. had some injury problems of their own, but not nearly as bad as the Quakes. Midfielder Ronnie Ekelund was out and so Landon Donovan was moved back to play his role with Ching and DeRosario up top, a combination fans have been wanting for a long time. (Last year DeRo recovered from his injury about the time Ching went down, so they never had a chance to play together.)
San Jose came out storming, and the first half — really the entire game — was almost all Earthquakes. Chance after chance after chance was had, with L.A. keeper Kevin Hartman making a slew of excellent saves to keep the Galaxy alive. DeRosario was a monster, really aggressive and threatening every time he got the ball. After thirty minutes or so it started to get a little worrisome. With so much domination it’s easy to get overconfident and make a defensive mistake. I worried the Gals might score on a counter. They did have a chance or two, the strongest being Cobi Jones’ header which came off the crossbar, but the ball did not go in. Then on a brilliant corner kick Brian Ching was at the top the box and when the other Quakes moved away, dragging L.A. defenders with them, he went unmarked into the seam and banged home a terrific header to give the home team the lead just before the half. After the half Ching continued right on. A Mulrooney through ball sent DeRo up the wing and his pin-point cross eluded Hartman and found a rushing Ching who chested it into the goal. A minutes later another defensive mistake sent Brian Mullan in on goal. He’s missed a few sitters recently and I could see him hesitate. I was sitting at the perfect angle, directly behind him on his way to goal. I was saying to myself “Go for it, shoot!” and he did! The ball went right past Hartman and into the far corner, a brilliant goal!
But all couldn’t be perfect for the Quakes. The make-shift defense has cracks and a bit of bad luck came when a routine shot from Herzog was deflected to wrong-foot Pat Onstad and end up in the goal. Three-one was still a strong lead, but I knew that getting just one would energize the Galaxy and it did. They scrambled and managed to score with a glancing header off a free kick. With only a one goal margin things were really tight now: everyone was no down reliving the miraculous comeback from last November and wondering if the turnaround would be in the other direction this time. But those fears were quickly put to rest via a marvelous performance from Dwayne DeRosario, my man of the match. Hounded by several Galaxy players over on the left side, DeRo spun around, eluding them, and took the ball toward goal. A cut back lost another defender, and then he moved back toward goal in the free space and sent a low grass-buzzing shot into the left side of the goal past a diving Hartman. Four-two! The packed stadium went insane, the Galaxy’s spirits slumped, and I knew we had the game wrapped up. The Quakes played good controlled soccer for the final ten minutes or so, not letting the Galaxy have much of a chance and creating a few shots to keep their defense nervous. Then it was over, a rallying 4-2 victory for the Earthquakes, and L.A.’s dreams of revenge vanquished. It was a terrific team performance, with good defense, great attacking play, and tons of unbelievable hard work and running. To show how lopsided the game was, San Jose set a new team record of a whopping 29 shots in the game and Pat only had to make four saves (he had ten last weekend in Dallas). Just awesome. The Quakes are now just three back from the Galaxy in the West and second place in the entire league, and we have a game in hand on L.A. Sweet. Final: 4-2 Earthquakes.