STANFORD, Calif. -- While it lacked the nail-biter finish of most California Clasicos, the San Jose Earthquakes comprehensive 3-1 victory over the LA Galaxy was thoroughly enjoyed by the 50,422 fans that packed Stanford Stadium on Saturday night.
A first half goal by Galaxy midfielder Juninho was cancelled out by Chris Wondolowski's wonder-strike just before intermission, and second half goals from Clarence Goodson and Cordell Cato sealed the 3 points for the Earthquakes (7-5-4) against the SoCal rivals LA (7-6-7).
The victory moved the Earthquakes into a tie for sixth place in the Western Conference with the Portland Timbers and within three points of the Galaxy in third. San Jose has four games in hand on LA, and next faces the Galaxy at the StubHub Center on July 17.
The Earthquakes nearly scored in the first minute, as Chris Wondolowski slammed a loose ball that made its way into the six yard box from a corner kick delivery. Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo was beat, but the shot caromed off of Fatai Alashe, who was still stationed on the goal line from the set piece opportunity.
In the eighth minute another corner kick presented San Jose with a moment of anticipation. Matias Perez Garcia's inswinger was slapped away from Penedo, as Alashe was trying to get his head on the ball, but Jordan Stewart sent his acrobatic attempt agonizingly over the crossbar from 15 yards out.
An 11th minute free kick from LA, following a foul by Perez Garcia at the top of the box, was curled to the near post by Stefan Ishizaki, but goalkeeper David Bingham easily collected the shot on the fly as he went low to his right.
Referee Jose Carlos Rivero handed out the first yellow card of the math in the 13th minute to Quakes midfielder Sanna Nyassi after his ill-timed tackle at the center line on Gyasi Zardes. Nyassi will miss San Jose's next MLS match, at Portland on July 5, due to caution accumulation.
With the Galaxy's momentum on the ascendency, they pushed forward into the attack. The pressure paid off as in the 17th minute, Juninho unleashed a rocket from 30 yards that beat Bingham to the left post. The blistering ball glanced off the goalkeeper's gloves, but it was not enough to deny the Brazilian his fourth goal of the MLS season.
In the 19th minute, Ishizaki was shown yellow for a tough tackle on Perez Garcia inside the center circle, but the Earthquakes were able to do little with the ensuing free kick. Two minutes later, a clever cross-field pass from Perez Garcia found Shea Salinas open on the left wing, but the midfielder was denied in the box by Penedo when he tried to sweep past the ‘keeper and go in on goal.
A dangerous free kick opportunity for LA, gifted to the visitors via a yellow card foul by Victor Bernardez inside the penalty arc, was fired on target by Ishizaki, but right into the awaiting arms of Bingham. The Galaxy's Robbie Keane forced Bingham into another save seconds later after a turnover in midfield -- it was already the goalkeeper's fourth save of the night.
And then, a moment of Cali Clasico magic. After a giveaway by the Galaxy inside the center circle, the ball was crossed to Perez Garcia on the right wing. The Argentine slalomed his way open at the byline past a hapless Leonardo and delivered a pinpoint cross to the top of the six that Wondolowski emphatically redirected into the back of the net to tie the score at one goal apiece.
It was Wondolowski's sixth goal of his career against the Galaxy, his ninth of the 2015 MLS season, the 98th of his Earthquakes tenure, and the 102nd all-time in his illustrious career.
The match settled down for the remainder of the first half, as the biggest cheers from the sold-out Stanford Stadium crowd of 50,422 came when the wave made multiple rounds around the bleachers. Two minutes of stoppage time was punctuated with a Sebastian Lletget close range effort that was smothered by Bingham.
The Quakes made one change at halftime, as Mark Sherrod entered for Adam Jahn in a like-for-like substitution at target forward. LA kept the same eleven on the field to start the second half.
And the move was an inspired one, as Sherrod combined with Goodson to free the defender on a corner kick in the 53rd minute. Running a pick play at the top of the area, Sherrod created just enough of a distraction that Goodson ran in uncontested to head home the delivery from Perez Garcia at the near post. It was Goodson's first goal as an Earthquake and his first MLS goal since 2007 with FC Dallas. He celebrated with a mighty leap into the arms of adoring fans in the corner of the stadium.
San Jose made its second substitution in the 60th minute with the introduction of Cordell Cato for Nyassi. Cato, who will join Trinidad and Tobago ahead of the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup in July, will leave the Quakes on Thursday.
In the 65th minute, the Earthquakes had a well-earned corner kick, courtesy of Cato's hustle on a ball along the endline. The delivery into the area pinballed around before it was cleared to Stewart 20 yards from goal. He kept his shot on target, but it was deflected away by Leonardo before it could reach Penedo in goal.
But the Earthquakes didn't let up, and Cato made the score 3-1 in the 72nd minute with a nifty finish inside the area. After collecting a pass from Salinas and dancing into space, Cato slotted a low shot that tucked under Penedo and into the back of the net for San Jose's third goal of the season. It was the first time since the second game of the season, a 3-2 win at the Seattle Sounders, that the Earthquakes scored three goals in a game.
Perez Garcia, who was the most impactful player on the field for either side, was subbed out in the 86th minute for Tommy Thompson to a standing ovation by the appreciative crowd. It was the final move of the night for the Earthquakes -- a night that saw everything go in their favor in beating their Southern California rivals.