The San Jose Earthquakes road woes continued as they dropped a 3-0 decision to archrivals the LA Galaxy Saturday night at the StubHub Center.
Designated player striking combo Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane accounted for all the scoring for the two-time defending MLS Cup champions. Former Earthquakes standout Donovan scored midway through the first half, while Keane added a brace, including a goal from the penalty spot, to secure the victory for the surging Galaxy.
San Jose (9-11-7) returns home after a winless three-game road trip, including a loss in CONCACAF Champions League play, with their hopes of making the MLS playoffs in serious jeopardy. Meanwhile, LA (13-9-4) kept pressure on Western Conference leaders Real Salt Lake in the race for the 2013 MLS Supporters’ Shield.
The Earthquakes, desperate for a result against their Southern California nemesis, started the attacking triumvirate of Chris Wondolowski, Alan Gordon, and Steven Lenhart on offense, but the gamble did not pay off.
For the 10 minutes, both sides played in an investigative manner on offense, looking for openings against tough defensive back fours. The first shot of the game came courtesy of a set piece as Wondolowski right-footed a volley on target off a corner kick from Marvin Chavez. Without much weight behind the ball, Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo made an easy punch save.
In the 19th minute, LA produced its first opportunity of the night as a long ball over the defense found Keane. After Jason Hernandez misplayed a clearance inside the area, Keane turned toward ‘keeper Jon Busch, but sent his low shot wide of the far post.
Cautiously selective in the attacking third, the Earthquakes nonetheless elected to push numbers forward on a free kick in the 26th minute, as centerback Clarence Goodson lined up aside Lenhart and Gordon at the top of the LA area to present Sam Cronin a trio of tall recipients to target. Instead, the ambitiousness on display by the Quakes was flipped upside down by the Galaxy.
After easily clearing the inbound free kick, LA quickly jumped out on the counterattack against the threadbare defensive line stationed at the center line. Accepting a pass inside his own half, Keane timed a perfect pass into space for Donovan inside the Quakes end of the field. Rounding Busch with relative ease, Donovan calmly slotted the ball into an empty net to give the StubHub denizens a 1-0 lead. The goal also marked a milestone for the U.S. international as the former Earthquake celebrated his 100th MLS goal with the Galaxy.
Assist man Keane doubled the LA lead from the penalty spot in the 43rd minute. A pass into the area from Donovan found Gyasi Zardes with space on the left, but as the rookie cut the ball back centrally, Steven Beitashour clipped his foot and was called for a foul. Busch did well to get a glove to Keane’s shot, but the momentum of the ball carried it into the net for a 2-0 advantage.
Halftime couldn’t come soon enough for the Quakes as the visitors need the break to regroup. In the second half, San Jose started brightly, but found it very difficult to trouble LA in the attacking third.
Content to defend and counter, the Galaxy gave the Earthquakes back four fits as they methodically asserted control of the match, all the time playing with the proverbial most dangerous lead in soccer.
Flat on defense in the 67th minute, the Quakes capitulated to LA offense when Keane scored his second goal of the match to extend the lead to 3-0. A seeing-eye ball from Zardes on the right edge of the area found Sean Franklin on the left, where served it back to the top of the arc for Keane to slam home.
The Quakes came close to pulling a goal back in the 77th minute, though not through the usual suspects in the forward corps. On a corner kick delivery from second half substitute Shea Salinas, Galaxy designated player defender Omar Gonzalez nearly back-heeled the delivery across the goal line, but Penedo was alert enough to collect the wayward ball.
A counterattack by LA in the 78th minute gave Keane a golden chance to notch a hat trick against San Jose, but Busch came up big to parry away a point-blank shot from the Irish striker. The Quakes ‘keeper was spectacular all evening long, but the Galaxy offense proved too much on the night for him in his effort to surpass the century mark in MLS victories he reached against Sporting Kansas City two weeks earlier.
A last chance for the Quakes to spoil the Galaxy clean sheet came in stoppage time as substitute Adam Jahn accepted a pass from Cordell Cato at the top of the area, but the rookie forward out of Stanford University sent his low shot wide of the post.
LA did well to run out the four minutes of stoppage time on offer and continued its late season run of form as they make a play for the Supporters’ Shield. San Jose slumped to its 10th road loss of the season and returns to Buck Shaw Stadium on September 8 against the Philadelphia Union looking to get their flagging playoff hopes back on track.