The Valeri Qazaishvili resurgence continued this season, along with an insane rate of scoring, as he led the San Jose Earthquakes to a comfortable 3-0 victory over Western Conference rivals the Los Angeles Galaxy in the ‘California Classico’ at Stanford Stadium Saturday night.
The Galaxy came in shorthanded, going without three players including Mexican forward Carlos Antuna and key midfielder Jonathan dos Santos, both of whom had laced up minutes earlier for their national team against Costa Rica in the Gold Cup.
San Jose played the same starting 11 from Wednesday’s win over the Houston Dynamo and did not lock the least bit knackered.
The record crowd of 50,850 for a ‘Cali Classico’ erupted early in the tenth minute following a San Jose free kick from the right flank that led to the first goal.
After receiving the initial free kick, Valeri ‘Vako’ Qazaishvili, attempted a sly pass into the box, only for it to be deflected right back to him.
From just outside the box, Vako, scorer of the last six San Jose goals in all competitions, rifled home a shot into the bottom left corner of the net for the 1-0 lead.
Head Coach Matias Almeyda said:
“Obviously, the result leaves you very happy, the greatest joy that I have is that the players play the same way that we train. Now this team knows they can compete with anyone.”
The visitors struggled throughout the first half offering aerial or low balls into their star Forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who had a forgettable first half, misplacing pass after pass.
Whenever they got into the final third, the Galaxy peppered low crosses into the box, hoping that someones foot would be there to deflect the ball into the net only for them all to be cleared away by a San Jose defender.
On the defensive game plan Tommy Thompson said:
“Zlatan is an incredible player, but before the game, we knew we had to stay close, but at the end of the day there are 11 players for the Galaxy so we couldn’t focus too much on Ibrahimovic because if we did that the other players could do what they do as well.”
Ibrahimovic had a tough start to the match, looking slow and at times uninterested, and would be held in check most of the match.
San Jose maintained the calm and at times lulling possession that they’ve displayed often this season under head coach Matias Almeyda, most recently in their victory earlier this week.
The Galaxy came out doing much of the same in the second half and came close to scoring in the 48th minute after a successful cross into the box that was met by the head of Ibrahimovic but sent wide.
San Jose stuck to their plan as well and eventually regained control of the possession battle but lacked that killer edge by squandering key chances to extend the lead. Luckily for the Quakes, the lack of a second during this period did not come back to haunt them.
After coming on as a sub for Cristian Espinoza, winger Shea Salinas made an immediate impact before ripping off his shirt and running towards the corner flag in celebration.
The fresh Salinas ran into the opposition box and blasted his right foot through the ball, sending it past the diving Galaxy keeper icing the game in the 82nd minute.
On his assignment as a substitute, Salinas said:
“To get out there and take my guy one on one. Cristian Espinoza was up and down the flank and wore them down so I was fourtunate to be able to go on agasist tired legs and it worked out for us.”
On Salinas’ immediate impact, Thompson said:
“It was awesome to see him coming in on the sideline because I know how hard he’s worked to come back from the set back that he had. You could feel it immediately when he got on the field you could feel he wanted that goal, and he got it.”
But it just wouldn’t be a ‘Cali Classico’ without something crazy happening, and this game delivered it late.
Just two minutes later in the 84th minute, Tommy Thompson found himself in the box, cut inside and bounced the ball off a Galaxy center back and into the goal for the third and final goal of the night.
Coming into today’s game, the results between the two teams had been dead even, with both teams going 9-9-9 in their previous 27 games against each other dating back to 2010.
The win keeps San Jose squarely in the playoff hunt, now only two points back of the third place Seattle Sounders FC.
On the team’s growth, Almeyda said:
“We see an important growth in little time, and it’s allowing us to be hopeful but for now we need to keep our feet on the ground.”
Games keep coming hard and fast for San Jose, who play their third game in seven days when they visit Minnesota United Wednesday.