California Clásico Preview: Three Keys To The Game

San Jose Earthquakes
May 06, 2017 - San Jose Earthquakes goalkeeper David Bingham (1) surveys the field during the Major League Soccer game between the Portland Timbers and the San Jose Earthquakes at Avaya stadium in San Jose, CA. (Getty Images/Icon Sportswire)

Editorial (May 26, 2017) – The eve of the first California Clásico of 2017 is upon us. The LA Galaxy have seemed to right the ship after a rocky start. The San Jose Earthquakes are undefeated in six home games this season. Here’s three keys to Saturday night’s match.

California Clásico Preview: Three Keys To The Game

The Quakes come in with a 5-4-4 record (19 points) while the LA Galaxy have a 4-5-2 record (14 points). The Galaxy have won two straight away matches. San Jose has won three of the last five, including giving FC Dallas their first loss in MLS play last weekend.

LA Galaxy Midfield Are The Walking Wounded:

The Galaxy are beat up in central midfield. Jermaine Jones has been out several weeks with a knee sprain and isn’t close to returning. Sebastian Lletget has several months to go in his rehab. Things got worse last weekend. Baggio Husidic came out of the game with a fractured fibula, and could be out two months. Joao Pedro is questionable with a hamstring issue.

Going into this year, central midfield was the club’s best position of depth. Now, their top four options could be out for Saturday. Pedro has played well lately and his absense could be a big loss. Head Coach Curt Onalfo’s best option could be to start Jelle Van Damme and Rafael Garcia in midfield. Yikes.

Look for the Galaxy to shake things up tactically to account for the circumstances.

The Quakes 4-3-3 And Battles On The Wings:

Believe it or not, San Jose Head Coach Dominic Kinnear is tactically flexible. The Quakes have come out in a 4-3-3 for almost two months now. It’s worked for them, especially at home. Jahmir Hyka has been a good newcomber to the squad and has provided chance creation for the forwards.

The Quakes might not have the fastest wing play in the league, but everyone does work on both sides of the ball and they maintain their shape. Contrast that with the Galaxy who have fast and free-flowing wide play. Emmanuel Boateng has been a shot of adrenaline that keeps defenders on their toes. On the other flank, Romain Alessandrini has carried the offensive load this year. He’s making a case for himself as MLS Newcomber of the Year as well.

This should be a very interesting game for wide play. The man-to-man matchups will be interesting. How both teams handle the sidelines tactically will also be something to watch.

Stoppage Time Chaos:

It’s cliché, but the Earthquakes and the Cali Clásico are all about late game drama. It could be a late goal, a PK call, a red card, or a mosh pit. Whenever these two meet, shenanigans come up and usually late in the match.

Jelle Van Damme knows how to stir the pot. Gyasi Zardes and Víctor Bernárdez know each other. Both teams went through changes in the off-season, so this will be a first taste for many players. This will also be the first match in years that neither Bash Brother is playing for one team or the other. We’ll have to see who emerges as a new hero/villan in this derby.

The game is scheduled for 7:00 pm PST at Avaya Stadium.