As the skies cleared over the Nutrilite Training Facility in San Jose Monday morning, the Earthquakes reserves were putting the final touches on a comprehensive 3-0 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy reserves. Featuring a pair of first half goals from Turkish trialist Sercan Güvenışık, and a 91st minute insurance strike from Ellis McLoughlin, the Earthquakes improved to 3-1-0 in the 2011 MLS Reserve League standings while the Galaxy dropped their third straight to open the campaign.
While Güvenışık expected he would already be in Florida following a week training in San Jose, it didn’t take too much convincing from the San Jose Earthquakes coaching staff for him to extend his trial with the club beyond last Friday. With the upcoming Reserve League match scheduled against the Galaxy, he knew the opportunity would be there to make a strong last impression in his quest to sign an MLS contract.
“The coach asked me to stay until Monday to play in this game,” said Güvenışık following the match, “It was a good chance for me. I worked hard and it is a good team to play with. Of course it was nice to score the two goals, but I am waiting for an answer from the Quakes as to what I will do next.”
Assistant coach Ian Russell, who took the helm for the Earthquakes in this match, was impressed with the play of Güvenışık. Noting that the team was a bit shaky in the early going, Russell stated that the striker’s 15th minute goal was important in settling the team.
“He’s done really well for us the past week and in this game,” shared Russell. “He’s sharp in attack and a good finisher. He is a forward that plays underneath and is active making good passes and takes a decent shot. He’s played at a good level in Germany, so he’s one we are really taking a good look at.”
General manager John Doyle has watched the crafty striker intently over the past seven days and acknowledged the team is interested in negotiating with Güvenışık before he returns mid-month to start preseason training in Germany. However, with cap space limited and Güvenışık currently under contract with newly promoted Preußen Münster of the third tier of the German Bundesliga, the chances he will make the move to MLS and play with San Jose are slim.
“I think he’s done well for himself,” said Doyle as the teams walked off the NTF pitch following the Earthquakes Reserve League win. “He looked sharp today and, as they say in Germany, he is a real goal-getter. We’re definitely looking at him, but still need to decide where he fits in with the guys we have.”
The match against the Galaxy reserves started out in the visitor’s favor, as the Quakes struggled to find their shape in the opening minutes. Forward Paolo Cardozo fired the first shot on target in the match for either side with an effort that goalkeeper David Bingham comfortably saved in the 9th minute.
As the Earthquakes found their feet, they began to more and more carry possession into the Galaxy half, primarily through the efforts of Joey Gjertsen and Tim Ward on the right flank. In the 15th minute, following a turnover by Gjertsen deep in the attacking third, Galaxy defender Ryan Thomas handled a loose ball to set-up a free kick for San Jose. Ward sent in a driving cross into the area that Güvenışık headed home for the game’s first goal.
Seven minutes later, and despite some prolonged possession from Los Angeles, the Earthquakes struck again. After gaining the ball inside his own half, midfielder David Frank spied Güvenışık making a run up the center of the field and floated a long ball right into his path. Avoiding the offside trap, the Turkish striker closed in on goalkeeper Brian Perk before smartly finishing just inside the right post to double the San Jose lead.
With a chance to extend the San Jose lead to three, forward Matt Luzunaris badly missed on a breakaway in the 26th minute. While fending off Galaxy defender Dan Keat as he approached the area, Luzunaris skied the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper when a simple touch on the ball would have been enough to lob in a shot on target. Instead, the Galaxy escaped punishment for their shaky backline play, and turned their focus back on creating scoring chances of their own.
The Earthquakes settled into a nice defensive shape following goal number two, with Brandon McDonald and Chris Leitch anchoring the team’s effort to keep the Galaxy off the scoreboard. Jovan Kirovski, frustrated in the center of the midfield for much of the afternoon, seemed compelled to finally take a shot from distance in the 30th minute, but the ball traveled safely over the frame. L.A.’s best chance in the opening half came in the 34th minute, when Hector Jimenez sent a shot through traffic that Bingham caught for a comfortable save.
The Earthquakes settled into a pattern of defend and counterattack for the last 15 minutes of the half, and Luzunaris nearly scored off a header from an acute angle in the waning minutes. However, his contested shot failed to trouble the Galaxy ‘keeper, and the teams stopped for halftime with the score still 2-0 to the home side.
“I thought we were a bit shaky in the beginning, but once we scored the goal we settled in nicely,” said assistant coach Russell. “Our shape was fantastic in the first half, and they had a hard time breaking us down. Our first team is getting results from their attention to shape, while the reserves are working hard and it carried over to today.”
The second half saw San Jose comfortably defend their two goal lead against a Galaxy side that could not find a way into the attacking third via the center of the field. Forced to venture more on the wings, Bryan Jordan provided the most dangerous moment in the early going as his 51st minute cross skittered through the box toward Jimenez at the far post. Goalkeeper Bingham attempted to intercept the pass, but found it just outside his reach. With an open goal beckoning, Jimenez made a diving effort to meet the cross, but his attempt came up short.
Gaining more confidence in the attacking third, the Galaxy soon found opportunities at the top of the box. In the 59th minute after forward Adam Cristman poked a loose ball toward the Earthquakes’ area, Cardozo raced in on goal with McDonald on his side, but could only shoot the ball wide of the target. In the 68th minute, after Bingham was forced to leave his box to make a clearance, Cardozo collected the ball and fired a low shot on target that McDonald deflected to safety from in front of an empty net.
As both teams made player changes down the stretch, including the Earthquakes bringing in midfielder Simon Dawkins in an attempt to increase his match fitness, the game became mired in midfield possession by both teams. Frustrations from players on both sides were also evident, as the head referee preferred to let the game play at a high physical level. Cooler heads prevailed, and the match drifted slowly into stoppage time.
In the 91st minute, after a poor clearance from the Galaxy defense on an Earthquakes corner kick, Ellis McLoughlin scored a fine goal from 30 yards out to put an exclamation point on the Earthquakes victory. Collecting the ball and transferring it to his right side, McLoughlin fired in a right footed blast that goalkeeper Perk had no chance of saving. Seconds after the restart the match ended and the San Jose reserves celebrated a deserved victory.
San Jose Earthquakes (3-1-0) vs. LA Galaxy (0-3-0)
June 6, 2011 — Nutrilite Training Facility
Scoring Summary: SJ — Sercan Güvenışık (Tim Ward) 15; SJ — Sercan Güvenışık (David Frank) 22; SJ — Ellis McLoughlin (unassisted) 91+.
Misconduct Summary: SJ — David Frank (caution) 72.
San Jose Earthquakes — David Bingham, Tim Ward, Chris Leitch, Brandon McDonald, Justin Morrow, Joey Gjertsen (Guillermo Alvarez 62), David Frank (Gino Bosz 70), Scott Sealy (Simon Dawkins), Ellis McLoughlin, Matt Luzunaris (Yuri Morales 85), Sercan Güvenışık (Christian Cruz 88)
Statistics: Shots: 8; Shots on Goal: 4; Saves: 3; Fouls: 9; Offside: 3; Corners: 4.
LA Galaxy — Brian Perk, Frankie Hejduk, Kyle Davies, (Dan Keat 17), Gregg Berhalter, Ryan Thomas, Bryan Jordan, Michael Stephens, Jovan Kirovski, Hector Jimenez (Dustin McCarty 66), Adam Cristman, Paolo Cardozo.
Statistics: Shots: 13; Shots on Goal: 4; Saves: 1; Fouls: 5; Offside: 2; Corners: 6.