2012 MLS Cup - Houston Dynamo v Los Angeles Galaxy

MLS Preview: LA Galaxy at San Jose Earthquakes

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  • It’s the original “California Clasico”
  • Three regular season meetings between the teams last year produced a total of 16 goals
  • San Jose has moved this one out of tiny Buck Shaw Stadium, into the far larger Stanford Stadium

Back before Major League Soccer marketing mavens helped gin up the city of Los Angeles” SuperClasico” – these meetings lately between the two StubHub Center tenant have really been un-Super and un-Clasico, but never mind that for now – we had the original “California Clasico.”

That was San Jose against the LA Galaxy, a Coastal Highway series that did live up to billing, generating its share of memories through the years.

Ask MLS histories about the best playoff game in league history and one remarkable 2003 Galaxy-San Jose contest will surely be in the conversation, as the Northern Cali side hit for five unanswered goals to claim the post-season series dramatically on aggregate, 5-4.

Plenty of Earthquakes fans have never forgotten how Landon Donovan, having returned for another short spell in Europe, requested to return to MLS in a Galaxy uniform rather than suiting up once again for San Jose.

Remember David Beckham kicking a ball at an injured player, and at the referee standing alongside? That was Earthquakes-Galaxy stuff.

And later last year, who could forget Omar Gonzalez’s popping the top on a public can of bitter frustration over the Earthquakes’ gamesmanship and on-field antics?

So, that’s all in the background as the teams meet tonight at Stanford Stadium,

Talking points in this one, set for a 10:30 p.m. ET kickoff, include:

  • While the Galaxy remain in the thick of things in the West, now complete again upon the return from international duty of Gonzalez and Robbie Keane, the Earthquakes are two games into a coaching change and still near the bottom of the conference.
  • If Donovan wants to prove he belongs back with the national team and deserves that Gold Cup call-up, why not start proving so right now, in a showcase MLS contest? (This will be his last league date for three or four weeks.) We’ve seen the old Donovan so far in bursts; those 3 goals and 4 assists in 12 MLS contests aren’t awful. But these burst have been relatively few and far between, especially by this guy’s former standards. So, clearly, it’s time to find another gear.
  • Speaking of finding another gear, reigning Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski had 27 goals last year, matching an MLS single-season mark. This year, he’s on pace for about 10. Clearly, that’s not where the proud striker wants to be after San Jose doubled his guaranteed salary in the offseason to $600,000.
  • Wondolowski has a contusion on his right foot but is expected to play.
  • Yes, the Earthquakes just signed U.S. international Clarence Goodson, and he will surely make a formidable pairing alongside Victor Bernardez. But Goodson will not become available to the ‘Quakes until August. Until then, Jason Hernandez or Nana Attakora will pair regularly with the Honduran international Bernardez.

(MORE: Goodson-Bernardez now among top MLS center back combos)

  • Last year at this time, San Jose right back Steven Beitashour and left back Justin Morrow were burgeoning stars, about to become MLS All-Stars and squarely in Jurgen Klinsmann’s radar for national team call-ups. Injuries and overall team form have had a say as they have faded into the background of these conversations in 2013.
  • Earthquakes interim manager Mark Watson has a win and a loss so far; this is his first home match (even if it’s not exactly inside San Jose usual home).
  • Los Angeles was without a win in three matches before last week’s 1-0 victory over Chivas USA.
  • Keane missed practice Thursday due to neck spasms but told reporters on Friday he expected to travel and play.

MLS Cup Playoffs: LA Galaxy 3-1 Real Salt Lake (video)

Los Angeles Galaxy defender Jelle Van Damme (37) congratulates forward Alan Gordon (9) for scoring against the Real Salt Lake during the first half of a knockout round MLS playoff soccer match in Carson, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
AP Photo/Alex Gallardo
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The game in 100 words (or less): The LA Galaxy are through to the conference semifinals of the MLS Cup Playoffs, where they’ll take on the Colorado Rapids beginning Sunday, for the seventh time in eight years with a 3-1 knockout-round triumph over Real Salt Lake at the StubHub Center on Wednesday. Alan Gordon put the home side ahead inside the first quarter-hour before RSL drew level seven minutes later, but Emmanuel Boateng bagged a quickfire brace to complete a pair of brilliant individual exhibitions of dribbling inside the penalty area. With Steven Gerrard unavailable and Robbie Keane only fit to feature off the bench, Bruce Arena turned to Gordon, who gave way to Keane early in the second half after picking up an injury of his own, to play the fulcrum of the Galaxy attack, and it worked to near-perfection during the opening half-hour. Landon Donovan started the game and played 87 minutes, providing the kind of defensive work rate that’s been missing up and down the flanks of LA all season. Sebastian Lletget put in a near-flawless passing performance while playing deep in midfield. Don’t look now, but those are the Galaxy’s biggest question of 2016, all just about answered as the playoffs begin. I won’t say, “I told you so” if/when they win MLS Cup 2016, but…

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

Three Four moments that mattered

14′ — Gordon finishes from close range for 1-0 — Landon Donovan -> Giovani dos Santos -> Alan Gordon. Just like Bruce Arena drew it up in preseason midseason last month this week this morning.

21′ — Plata converts from the spot after Morales’ dive — Javier Morales was angling for a penalty from the moment he entered the penalty area. All Emmanuel Boateng had to do was look at him, and Morales was going down.

26′ — Boateng weaves through to make it 2-1 — Left. Right. Left. Right. Left. Boateng took advantage of some poor defending, and the Galaxy were back in the lead.

34′ — Boateng cuts inside, blows past his man, makes it 3-1 — There’s playing in top gear, and there’s having an extra gear that you rarely have to use because no one else on the field has it. Boateng falls into the latter category.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Emmanuel Boateng

Goalscorers: Gordon (14′), Plata (21′), Boateng (26′, 34′)

MLS Cup Playoffs: Toronto FC 3-1 Philadelphia Union (video)

Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC
Chris Young/The Associated Press via AP
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The game in 100 words (or less): 10 years later, Toronto FC are MLS Cup Playoffs victors. For eight seasons, the playoffs eluded them altogether. Last year, they were one-and-done in embarrassing fashion at the hands of their local rivals. In 2016, it was  their year — a proclamation we’d heard plenty times before — and so far, they’ve lived up to the hype. Wednesday’s 3-1 home victory over the Philadelphia Union in the knockout round gets the monkey off the Reds’ back, but more importantly, afforded Sebastian Giovinco, who bagged a goal and an assist on the night (his second straight game with such a line), 90 more minutes of game time after missing more than a month through injuries as the regular season wound down. After 270 minutes of action, the Atomic Ant looks sharp as ever, and destined to terrorize New York City FC, whom TFC will face in the conference semifinals, beginning Sunday.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

Three Four moments that mattered

15′ — Atlidore feeds Giovinco for 1-0 — The first playoff goal in TFC’s 10-year history. Poor goalkeeping, ball-watching defending, terrible touches, an overhead cross, and a strike off the crossbar. There’s a lot going on here. Watch it all right here.

49′ — Osorio slams home from the corner for 2-0 — The Union have been bad at defending set pieces all season, so is it at all surprising a set-piece gaffe effectively ended their season? No, it’s not.

73′ — Bedoya puts the loose ball home for 2-1 — Speaking of failing to effectively clear a corner kick, the Union were gifted a lifeline 15 minutes before full-time.

85′ — Altidore puts it out of reach, seals it for TFC — Ken Tribbet did not have the best night a center back has ever seen. His final blunder resulted in Jozy Altidore reclaiming TFC’s two-goal lead, and ending the Union’s 2016 season.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Sebastian Giovinco

Goalscorers: Giovinco (15′), Osorio (49′), Bedoya (73′), Altidore (85′)

Men In Blazers podcast: Mourinho’s Chelsea return; Bradley’s 1st point

Men In Blazers
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Rog and Davo break down Jose Mourinho’s return to Chelsea with Manchester United, another stumble for Manchester City and Bob Bradley’s first Premier League point.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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VIDEO: Altidore, Giovinco combine for TFC’s first-ever playoff goal

Sebastian Giovinco
Chris Young/The Associated Press via AP
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It’s been 10 years in the making, and Toronto FC finally have their first-ever goal in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

After failing to qualify for the playoffs in each of their first eight seasons, 2015 saw the Reds venture into the postseason for the first time ever, only to be thumped in the knockout round, 3-0, by their 401 derby rival Montreal Impact, of all sides.

This is the year, though, or so we’ve said and been told all season long. While it remains to be seen how deep of a run TFC can muster in 2016, they’ll always have the Jozy Altidore‘s terrible first touch; Altidore’s wayward second and third touches; Altidore’s overhead cross; and Sebastian Giovinco’s strike, all of which you can watch in all its hilarity glory below.

[ MORE: Power rankings — Playoffs edition | MLS Cup predictions ]