Despite losing both goalkeepers, the Galaxy steals a point on the road in the California Clasico.
Although the score sheet says nothing happened, this scoreless draw had a little bit of everything. There were chances, fouls, cards, injuries, ejections and heated arguments -- both during play and at halftime. It truly was a classic California Clasico.
And even though the Western Conference’s sixth place Earthquakes got a point against the top-ranked Galaxy, the end result may have been more demoralizing than their 1-0 loss a week ago to the MLS-worst Sporting Kansas City.
Already without Landon Donovan (Gold Cup) and David Beckham (injury), the Galaxy lost its starting keeper Donovan Ricketts in the 23rd minute after a collision in the box with San Jose midfielder Khari Stephenson. (Ricketts was making his first start since returning from his Jamaican national team that was ousted by the United States in the Gold Cup.)
If things weren’t already lopsided in San Jose’s favor, they got even more favorable when backup keeper Josh Saunders was thrown out of the match, given a straight red card after elbowing Steven Lenhart in the head in the 43rd minute. Step in Mike Magee.
“For some reason, we couldn’t break him down the way we wanted to,” said San Jose coach Frank Yallop.
Magee, an offensive-minded midfielder by trade, was shoved into the net, donning Saunders’ keeper jersey for the remaining 47-plus minutes and proved to be quality. As the keeper, Magee made all the stops needed to allow his club to leave Northern California with a point, when maybe it shouldn’t have. This, in a nutshell, is why the Galaxy sits atop the MLS table, while the Earthquakes are struggling to find an identity in 2011.
Down a man for the entire second half, the Galaxy used their substitutions to bring on more defensive-minded players, and pushed everyone behind the ball. Los Angeles blocked 10 shots, but it was Magee who made the most crucial block. In the 89th minute, Anthony Ampaipitakwong sent a cross in from the right that the Galaxy defenders couldn’t clear. Lenhart was first to the loose ball in the six and flicked a shot that Magee made a sliding kick save on to preserve the score.
“I should’ve done better. I should have scored,” said a frustrated Lenhart. “I tried to go back across the goal, I should’ve gone near post.”
It didn’t start out the way it ended, however. San Jose came out and controlled play, but couldn’t convert its chances. Ricketts, while he was still in the match, made a couple remarkable stops along with a little luck to keep the game scoreless.
Just 19 second into the match, Simon Dawkins had the ball at his feet with his back to goal inside the Galaxy box. Dawkins faked left and turned to his right, firing a left-footed shot that beat Ricketts to the far side. Unfortunately for Dawkins, his shot was thwarted by the post.
Minutes later, Lenhart muscled his way into the box and made it to the end line before cutting a pass back to Dawkins who flicked a shot on goal. Ricketts was there to punch it away and out for a corner. On the ensuing corner, Dawkins was robbed once again by Ricketts. Ryan Johnson pounced on the rebound and pounded a shot that Ricketts had to leap to his right to push it away from goal.
“I thought we played the best we’ve played in the first half in a long time,” said Yallop. “We had our chances to score, but didn’t put it in the net.”
Aside from his stop on Lenhart in the waning moments of the match, Magee’s only other test came in the 71st minute. San Jose put pressure on the Los Angeles goal with a couple crosses, causing Magee to wander in the box with 50-50 balls in the air. But it was the Galaxy defense who wanted it more, and assured the Earthquakes wouldn’t put a shot on goal. And San Jose didn’t, as the Galaxy got behind each shot and blocked them away from goal.
“You got to give credit to Los Angeles,” said Yallop. “They bunkered in and did a good job at defending the box.”
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