The rivalry between the San Jose Earthquakes and the LA Galaxy is the oldest and one of the fiercest that MLS has to offer. Born out of the intense cultural and sporting rivalry between Northern and Southern California, the match was dubbed the “California Clasico” in homage to “El Clásico”, the fabled rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona. And although the CaliClasico may have lost some of its significance to Galaxy fans as “El Trafico”, their rivalry with new crosstown rivals LAFC intensifies, it remains the biggest match of the year for the Earthquakes faithful.
That dynamic was evident on the pitch as the Quakes left LA with a surprise 3-1 away victory despite entering the match as underdogs. All seemed to be going to plan when Rolf Feltscher fired the Galaxy into the lead in the second minute but three second half goals for the Earthquakes including a goal and two assists from Valeri “Vako” Qazaishvili were enough to see them take all three points against Zlatan Ibrahimovic and co.
Although the score line was a surprise to many, it doesn’t properly demonstrate the Earthquakes’ dominance. From the opening whistle they were all over the Galaxy and if it weren’t for David Bingham’s heroics in goal for the Galaxy things could have gone a lot worse. By the time the whistle blew for full-time, Bingham had made 14 saves, just one shy of Tony Meola’s record for all time most saves in single MLS match. LA Galaxy manager Guillermo Barros Schelotto openly accepted his side’s inferiority on the night.
“We deserved to lose, we couldn’t stop them…after the first 20 minutes, the game was lost.”
For the Earthquakes, this victory feels like a microcosm of their season as a whole; entering with low expectations and surprising all onlookers with their unity, desire, and performance as a team. Earthquakes striker Danny Hoesen scored the go-ahead goal on the night and later spoke of the changes he has noticed in the side’s mentality this season.
“We don’t panic anymore as a team. Even if we’re down or something, we know what we can do and just follow the game plan. The group is so united if that’s the right word and we all believe in each other. It’s amazing and we enjoy the ride.”
The Earthquakes have only made the MLS Cup Playoffs once in the last seven seasons but now sit comfortably in 4th place in the Western Conference after Friday’s victory. With the Galaxy conquered, the Quakes will hope to ride this momentum through the end of the regular season and bring playoff soccer back to the Bay.