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The San Jose Earthquakes host the LA Galaxy Wednesday for the second leg of the MLS semifinal series.
San Jose withstood everything the Galaxy offense could throw at them to secure a giant upset and a critically important three points in the MLS playoff chase. Jon Busch was undoubtedly the player of the game, making 7 saves and a variety of other grabs and punches that won’t register on the stat sheet but nevertheless kept the Galaxy off the board.
Geovanni made his anticipated debut, but with only 18 minutes to make an impact and L.A. pressing forward he was almost an afterthought – his impact will be felt when he gets a chance to train with the team and play a full 90 minutes within the offense.
With the win today San Jose momentarily jumps into 4th place in the Western Conference and three points clear of the final playoff spot. The Earthquakes will be thrilled to have taken four points from their two games against the Galaxy, and will have the confidence to know they can play with the best the MLS has to offer. They will need all of that confidence next week when they travel to New York to play Thierry Henry and the surging Red Bulls
After the addition of Geovanni San Jose has immediately looked better on attack, though oddly Geovanni hasn’t been deeply involved yet. Just before being taken off Alvarez missed a golden opportunity one-on-one against Ricketts, blasting a close shot over the bar when he had a few different players (including Geovanni) that might have been open on the far post.
San Jose’s defense has been resolute and Jon Busch has been simply brilliant, but they must survive another 10 minutes plus extra time to win three points in this rivalry match.
Frank Yallop has substituted new designated player Geovanni, and he’s being deployed as a forward in place of Cornell Glen, who was active but ultimately unproductive today. Geovanni received a warm welcome from Earthquake fans, but it will presumably be the defense that decides this game.
Minutes earlier Los Angeles used their 2nd substitution by bringing on Brazilian midfielder Alex Cazumba in place of midfielder Michael Stephens.
Arturo Alvarez picked up an unnecessary yellow card after overreacting to being called for fouling Juninho and kicking the ball away.
Meanwhile, forward Eddie Lewis has come on in place of forward Mike Magee as the Galaxy continue to search for their first goal. San Jose has yet to use a substitution, though Geovanni has been stretching and limbering up on the sideline, perhaps in preparation for the substitution that every Earthquake fan wants to see.
Omar Gonzalez picked up the first yellow card of the match in the 28th minute after knocking over Chris Wondolowski well after he had passed the ball away. On the ensuing spot kick Bobby Convey sent in a cross to the far side of the box that Wondolowski tracked down. The Galaxy defense momentarily sagged back in anticipation of an offsides call, and Wondolowski took advantage by sending in a pass to Glen, who knocked the ball off the post before it was grabbed by Ricketts, ending a golden opportunity for San Jose to take a shocking 2-0 lead.
The offensive pressure from L.A. began to grow late in the half, but two huge saves from Jon Busch helped San Jose maintain their 1-0 lead going into the half. Busch’s first big save came after a Quake defender gave away the ball to Landon Donovan, giving him a clear one-on-one opportunity. Donovan’s shot was powerfully struck but close enough for Busch to knock down before Tim Ward alertly swept the ball away and out of bounds.
Later in the half Donovan led a swift counter-attack before sliding a pass in to Mike Magee. Magee’s shot was knocked down and then collected by Busch before the rebound could squirt away towards another attacker.
San Jose will feel pleased to still have the 1-0 lead, but the memory of L.A’s 2nd half charge just a month ago must be in the back of their minds. It’s going to be a long, grueling 45 minutes for San Jose’s defense.
San Jose has played L.A. very evenly since being gifted an early goal, and the game has been characterized by lots of physical play. Today’s ref has let most of that play go so far, and the result has been a number of minor skirmishes between two groups of players who don’t seem to like each other very much.
The Galaxy had a brief flurry of activity after San Jose’s goal, but since that point possession has been mostly even and good chances have been few and far between for both teams. Mike Magee just missed a goal from a tight angle off of a pass from Donovan in the 27th minute that represented L.A.’s best chance thus far.
Donovan Ricketts and A.J. De La Garza communicated horribly on a harmless cross, and Chris Wondolowski took advantage by finding the loose ball and slotted neatly home for the early 4th minute lead. Bobby Convey sent in a long, looping cross towards the right side of the box, and Ricketts and De La Garza both thought the other would take the ball. With both players staring at each other it was easy for Wondolowski to score on what was essentially an empty net.
It's deja vu for both teams as San Jose took a similar early lead when they met in Los Angeles. San Jose will again be challenged to absorb the offensive pressure the Galaxy are sure to bring. With 86 minutes left the makeshift Earthquake back line has quite a task in front of them.
…and not surprisingly, no Geovanni. Here’s the 11 Frank Yallop is sending out:
Goalkeeper: Jon Busch
Defenders: Tim Ward, Brandon McDonald, Bobby Burling, Bobby Convey
Midfielders: Arturo Alvarez, Khari Stephenson, Sam Cronin, Joey Gjertsen
Forwards: Chris Wondolowski, Cornell Glen
Meanwhile, the Galaxy will send out the following:
Goalkeeper: Donovan Ricketts
Defenders: Sean Franklin, Leonardo Ribiero, Omar Gonzalez, A.J. De La Garza
Midfielders: Michael Stephens, Juninho Gomes, Chris Birchall, Landon Donovan
Forwards: Mike Magee, Edson Buddle
Almost exactly one month ago San Jose and Los Angeles played one of the most tense, exciting games of the season, with both ultimately settling for a 2-2 draw down south. After a variety of injuries and transfer signings the San Jose team that takes the field against L.A. could look quite a bit different.
Beyond the actual result the story of this game for the Quakes will be Geovanni. San Jose's first ever designated player hasn't has any time to train with the team after dealing with legal and travel issues and it's not known if Frank Yallop will choose to start him immediately, particularly against a team as good as the Galaxy. The other question is where he'll play. Khari Stephenson acquitted himself very well in his first game with the Quakes last week as an attacking midfielder, which perhaps means that Geovanni is more likely to be deployed as a winger or striker. In any case, Geovanni's ability to quickly mix with his teammates may be critical for San Jose's playoff chances.
In other team news, Jon Busch will be back in goal after a one game break - because of injury rather than poor performance. Joe Cannon played well in earning a clean sheet against Kansas City, but suffered a broken ankle that will end any goalkeeping controversies for the rest of the season.
On the injury front, Bobby Burling is expected to return to the starting lineup, but enough defenders are still on the shelf to keep Brandon McDonald and Bobby Convey playing out of position on the back line.
Cohesion in the midfield - With potentially two new players on the pitch San Jose will have a major challenge against the likes of Landon Donovan, Juninho and Michael Stevens. It's already a tall task to find possession and create chances against Los Angeles with a talented lineup used to playing with each other. But if San Jose can find a way to keep the ball away from L.A.'s play makers they'll give themselves a fighting chance.
Vulnerabilities in the back line - When San Jose last played L.A. the Quakes sent out their best starting defense, and they gallantly defended against a dominating, attacking Galaxy squad for a full 90 minutes. Because San Jose's midfield could not maintain possession, the defense faced constant pressure and actually did well to only allow two goals. This time around San Jose will not be sending out their best defense because of the aforementioned injuries. All things considered, holding L.A. to two goals might be a moral victory - anything less a major triumph.