Galaxy edge rival Earthquakes, 2-1, in California Clasico

Second-half goals lift the LA Galaxy past rival San Jose Earthquakes, 2-1, in the 96th edition of the California Clasico.

Entering Sunday’s matchup in the California Clasico, the oldest rivalry in the MLS, the Galaxy had a tall task ahead of them, just 24 hours prior, LA slid to last place in the MLS standings after Sporting Kansas City’s 3-0 win over Minnesota United gave them nine points on the season.

Their opponents, the San Jose Earthquakes, entered the matchup having lost just once in the previous seven matches, including knocking off previously undefeated LAFC last weekend.

On Sunday, the Galaxy had what head coach Greg Vanney described as “by far,” the best defensive performance of the season following a 2-1 victory over San Jose.

The victory puts LA at nine points through 11 games this season and 13th in the Western Conference.

Given the dominant defensive performance from the Galaxy, it was fitting that centerback Martin Caceres opened the scoring, finishing a corner kick in the 60th, despite Riqui Puig’s best efforts to play the ball on the far post.

Nearly 10 minutes after the opening goal, Jonathan Bond had an incredible save on San Jose’s Jamiro Monteiro’s screamer off his right foot from the center of the box to keep the score at 1-0.

Team captain Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez missed three shots on goal and was booked for a yellow card in the first half. He would not be able to find the back of the net before subbing off in the 89th for Dejan Joveljic, who went to work almost immediately after coming on.

Not even 60 seconds after coming on the pitch, Joveljic capitalized on a San Jose giveaway and with nothing but the keeper between the ball and the net, he sent one past JT Marcinkowski to extend the lead to two goals and put the game on ice for LA.

Joveljic described the moments following the goal with one word, “blackout.”

San Jose winger Cristian Espinoza had been on a tear to start his 2023 MLS campaign, scoring seven goals in 11 games prior to Sunday.

Galaxy’s backline was able to keep Espinoza’s name off the scoring sheet and nearly kept a clean sheet until a stoppage-time San Jose goal from Ousseni Bouda made the score 2-1.

“I know we can score goals but if we defend like we did tonight, we’re going to win many more games,” Vanney said. “Defending is something we need to concentrate on and tonight we did.”

Next, the Galaxy will hit the road to face Columbus United on Wednesday, the team’s fourth game in 11 days, a factor that played into Vanney’s tactics Sunday.

”As long as we stayed in control of this game I wasn’t going to use as many guys,” Vanney said. “I wanted to be able to save some guys on Wednesday that I know I’m going to use.”

Wednesday’s game is set to start at 4:30 p.m. on Apple TV on MLS Season Pass.