In the non-playoff, non-Chris Roner division of the Los Angeles-San Jose rivalry, the latest installment of the California Clasico may just rank atop a list of meetings that well and truly lived up to the moniker.
“It was a really good game,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan told reporters after the Earthquakes staged another comeback to snatch a 4-3 victory at a sold-out Stanford Stadium. “It was enjoyable to be a part of for the most part. The energy was great, there were just 20-some odd people in here who aren't happy.”
The visitors could have and probably should have taken away a morsel or two from the match. Donovan and David Beckham (with a peach of a free kick) featured among the goalscorers as the Galaxy tallied three times in the first half after Steven Lenhart's early opener to seemingly create a straightforward path to a fourth consecutive victory.
Several opponents this season can attest to San Jose's ability to rescue points from fairly desperate situations and this affair adhered to recent form. Victor Bernárdez's neat finish before halftime capped a five-goal half and, rather improbably, set the stage for a second stanza even more dramatic than the first.
San Jose's goal right before the break instilled the necessary belief for yet another fightback. Sam Cronin took advantage of Juninho's lazy tracking run to slot home the equalizer before Chris Wondolowski cleverly poked home a Marvin Chávez corner kick with his backheel with a half-hour still to play.
The smart money would have rested on another goal or two in the final stages, but it never arrived. San Jose substitute goalkeeper David Bingham intervened smartly on a Beckham opportunity, while the goal frame also played its part in preserving a victory that Wondolowski subsequently dubbed a “statement win.”
“We are a darn good team and I am glad we got a chance to showcase it in front of this crowd and the nation,” Bingham told reporters after the game. “We aren’t the prettiest of teams at times, but we have been effective all season long and that has resulted in wins. Goonies never say die.”
San Jose's ample reserves of fortitude played a crucial role in creating perhaps the spectacle of the season to date. The defending fell well short of any reasonable standard for much of the night, but the overall entertainment value provided by the seven goals, the passion between the teams and the sheer drama offered up in this electric setting eclipsed any practical concerns.
On this particular night and in the wake of a game that will surely feature among the matches of the season, the final verdict came back to the clever little name for this derby, the persistent angst between the two teams and the seemingly interminable wait until the two sides renew acquaintances again in October.
“The rivalry is back,” Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant told reporters after the match. “Both teams are competitive for the championship again and I think that's a big part of it.”
Five Points – Week 15
1. Beckham's petulance deserves a further ban, but the smart money isn't on it: The Galaxy midfielder capped off a good performance with a unfortunately characteristic decision to express his displeasure with an injury-related stoppage by kicking a ball toward the prone Sam Cronin in second half stoppage time. No points for accuracy (dead on, of course) or righteousness (Cronin sure popped up quickly when Beckham offered his inch-perfect effort from the sideline, didn't he?) here. This type of disrespectful and needless behavior deserves swift retribution from both the referee on the field (a caution isn't enough even with the Earthquakes' time-wasting tactics, though the referee did issue one and Beckham will miss the next game through yellow card accumulation) and the league in the boardroom. Given the latitude Beckham receives from referees on a weekly basis and from the Disciplinary Committee in general (remember that awful, unpunished tackle on D.C. United midfielder Marcelo Saragosa earlier this year?), the booking and the corresponding automatic one-match ban will likely comprise the full extent of his rebuke on the matter.
2. Sebastián Grazzini or Chris Rolfe as the attacking impetus in Chicago?: Count one vote for Rolfe in this debate after Chicago's 1-0 victory over Sporting Kansas City. Rolfe – when healthy, of course – offers two things the Argentine midfielder (omitted on Friday after the Fire finally picked up his option last week) does not supply: (1) he possesses the necessary directness and pace to keep up with the likes of Patrick Nyarko and Dominic Oduro on the counter and (2) he works hard off the ball to create opportunities and provide defensive cover by tracking into spots where Grazzini simply won't tread. There are times when Grazzini's creativity will be required to unlock the game, but, for now, it makes more sense to plump for Rolfe from the start with the Fire's current reliance on the counter.
3. Some goals are meant to be admired: Beckham's sumptuous free kick past a battered and frozen Jon Busch and Chris Pontius' wonderful jaunt through the tattered Montréal defense in D.C. United's simple 3-0 home victory are certainly worthy of another look or six to start your Monday morning.
4. It's tough to let the ball do the work when you can't obtain it: Seattle did everything it could to snap a seven-match winless streak in Saturday night's 2-2 draw at New England. Sounders FC brushed off an early goal by Saër Sène, exposed the Revolution's recent penchant to concede goals on crosses (the past four goals scored by opposing teams have come from a cross or service from the left wing) and settled into a organized defensive shape.
Everything worked well out, except for one minor problem (aside from a series of suspect refereeing decisions, including on both goals): Seattle couldn't get the ball off the Revs in the second half (31.5 percent possession after the interval, according to statistics compiled by Opta on Saturday night) and couldn't find the legs to see the match out. When Diego Fagundez (clever operator that he is) manages to wriggle free to score on a header, it's a sign that the mental and physical strain from soaking up too much pressure took its toll.
“Playing from behind is obviously difficult, but we came back today and got ourselves on top.” Schmid said after the game. “It's just a situation, in the second half, where we did what we had to do. We didn't have the legs any more to be able to get forward [with] our fitness, the travel and everything else. They moved the ball around well, they created spaces and created openings and we had to bunker in and defend. That was a reflection of where we're at now physically with the amount of games we've played.”
5. Conor Casey and Omar Cummings ride together again: The prolific Colorado duo featured in a MLS game together for the first time since July 16, 2011 in the Rapids' comfortable 3-0 victory over Portland at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Casey notched his first goal of the season (Brian Mullan provided the service, not Cummings from one of his inside-out runs toward the right corner), but both players will likely suggest they can offer more to the cause in subsequent matches if they find their form and retain their fitness (Cummings, by the way, departed with ankle pain after 74 minutes).
Kyle McCarthy writes the Monday MLS Breakdown and frequently writes opinion pieces during the week for Goal.com. He also covers the New England Revolution for the Boston Herald and MLSsoccer.com. Contact him with your questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter by clicking here.