Well, it wasn't pretty. The San Jose Earthquakes defended well and were offensively opportunistic to seal a 2-2 draw against the Los Angeles Galaxy on Friday night at the StubHub Center. Despite being dominated for long stretches of the match, the Quakes made their chances count and stretched their unbeaten streak to three games.
"That was a great point against a very good opponent," said San Jose head coach Mark Watson. "LA played a very good game so you have to give them credit, but we showed a great mentality, especially in the second half to see the game out and earn the point. They had some chances, but we were able to get a little touch here or a block there and stay in the game."
Indeed, the Galaxy did have their fair share of chances. Los Angeles registered 24 shots, six of which were on goal, and another nine were blocked by San Jose defenders. The Galaxy also enjoyed nearly 70% of the possession during the match. But if L.A. could be considered wasteful with the ball and with chances, San Jose was anything but.
After some early Galaxy possession it was the Quakes who struck first on the counter in the 18th minute. Shea Salinas received an outlet pass and dribbled through the middle of the field, and found Chris Wondolowski's diagonal run in the left side of the area. Wondo's touch looked like it had taken him too close to the byline for an opportunity, but he cut back against his defender and slotted a shot from a sharp angle past the Galaxy's Jaime Penedo into the far side netting for the opening goal.
The Galaxy responded well to falling behind, and started bringing the pressure. San Jose defender Jason Hernandez heroically blocked consecutive shots in the 22nd minute, from Robbie Rogers and then Robbie Keane, respectively. Six minutes later a short corner yielded a headed chance for L.A.'s Gyasi Zardes, but he put his effort just wide of the far post.
But in the 29th minute, the Galaxy broke through. Landon Donovan led a counter attack, and played the ball to Keane near the top of the area. Keane's shot was again blocked, but this time the rebound fell kindly for Zardes, and he placed his shot past Jon Busch, who was out of position after diving for the previous attempt.
Then came the key moment for San Jose. Within two minutes of L.A.'s goal, the Quakes were back on top. Salinas looped an overhead ball for Atiba Harris to reach. Harris slotted a low cross behind Wondolowski, who flicked it on towards the new Designated Player Matías Pérez García. García, largely silent up to that point, showed his class with a volleyed shot that hit the hand of Penedo yet still found the upper 90. García had his first Earthquakes goal in his first chance of asking.
"The ball came out quickly and we broke well," García described through a translator. "There was a good ball played into the middle and I didn't have any doubts when it came to me and I just focused and hit it. The goal really gave me a confidence boost and that will help me as we go to the next match."
Watson was certainly pleased with García's debut as well.
"He scored a very good goal and you can see his quality when he is out there," he observed. "He can get out of tight spaces well and protect the ball. He is also a very good passer and you can see he is dangerous in the final third. We are looking forward to seeing more each time he gets on the field. Tonight was a great start."
The Quakes ended the opening half with the 2-1 lead, but the teams were back on level pegging shortly after the break. Stefan Ishizaki put a 49th minute Galaxy corner toward the near post. L.A. defender Omar Gonzalez leaned to meet it, and his header just snuck by a lunging Busch and in for the goal. It was the first goal that San Jose allowed off of either a corner kick or a header all season, and it stung just after the break.
But the Quakes held their own following the equalizer, and despite mounting few attacks for the remainder of the match, never really let the Galaxy get too close to snatching a winner. Busch was forced to make a nice save on a near post Donovan shot in the 52nd minute, and Zardes wasted a volley chance off a corner kick in the 77th. For the most part, San Jose's defense kept L.A. out of the danger areas, and came away with a big point. Getting anything out of a game at the StubHub Center against the Galaxy is always a positive.
And it would seem that Quakes fans have something to look forward to in García. The Argentine was slightly out of position tonight, filling in for injured Yannick Djaló in the second striker role. But when Djaló returns, expect to see García in his more comfortable role out wide in midfield. That should be an exciting attacking force, and the Quakes are starting to realize it.
"That is one of the greatest things about soccer, It's ever evolving and you have to continue to adapt each game," said Wondolowski of the team's offense. "We have a lot of options in the attack right now and we have to work on things and keep playing together and hopefully the results will continue to come."
Right now the results are coming as needed, and there is no time to slow down. San Jose is now just six points off of the final playoff spot in the West with two games in hand on the Colorado Rapids, the team holding that final spot. Four points from successive games against the Seattle Sounders and Galaxy is a good jumping off point to make a significant push.