A member of last year's Supporters' Shield-winning team isn't all that impressed with the 2012 winner that his team might face again in the playoffs.
After battling Steven Lenhart and the Earthquakes during a 2-2 tie at Buck Shaw Stadium on Sunday, Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez told it straight. “We would have been the same, with this win or not, because we know we’re the better team,” said Gonzalez, a key factor in the Galaxy’s double of best regular-season record and MLS Cup in 2011. “A win would have been nice for us to have the better [playoff] seed, but we know we can do it.”
Gonzalez is mentoring rookie centerback Tommy Meyer, who stepped in for an injured Gonzalez early in the regular season and now is replacing his regular partner, A.J. DeLaGarza, who suffered a knee injury in early October. The central pair was tested often by league’s top-scoring team, which offered up high balls to Lenhart and the dribbling of Marvin Chavez and Simon Dawkins to complement MLS goal leader Chris Wondolowski.
When asked what advice he gave Meyer regarding the Quakes, Gonzalez replied, “I just told him not to get into their game, because the way that they play, they just try and give you cheap shots off the ball and when you’re trying to go up for a play, they’re giving you cheap shots as well. I just told him to try not get into that and play the way the game is supposed to be played.”
A possible playoff rematch is on tap after the Galaxy’s fourth-place finish was assured Sunday night when Seattle beat FC Dallas, 3-1. Despite losing at home 1-0 to Portland, Vancouver clinched fifth place by virtue of FCD’s loss. The Whitecaps visit the Galaxy at Home Depot Center a week from Wednesday in a one-game playoff and the winner advances to a two-game conference semifinal series against the Quakes.
San Jose played a lot of long balls to the head of Lenhart, who lost most of the first-half duels with Gonzalez and Meyer as the Galaxy piled up an 11-2 edge in shots without scoring. Early in the second half Lenhart earned a free kick during a tussle with Gonzalez that yielded a free kick Chavez curled into the bottom corner to tie the game. Robbie Keane had scored just three three minutes earlier.
A second Galaxy lead provided when Edson Buddle headed home Sean Franklin’s corner kick evaporated when Wondolowski dived through a tangle of players at the near post to head in Chavez’s corner kick for his 26th goal of the season. Wondolowski had earlier struck the post with shots a minute apart but eventually got to within one of the league's single-season record of 27 set by Roy Lassiter, who was in attendance.
Losing leads to the Quakes is nothing new to the Galaxy this year: in the teams’ two previous meetings, the Galaxy lost, 3-2, after leading, 2-0, and collapsed after leading 3-1 to lose, 4-3. The tie gave the Quakes seven out of a possible nine points in games against its Southern California rival, but the Galaxy did get out of town with a point despite missing Landon Donovan (bone bruise) and David Beckham (twisted ankle).
Left back Todd Dunivant, a 12-year MLS veteran and thus by far the most experienced member of the back line, said, “This is a much different feel than the last two games we played San Jose, where we not only lost leads but also lost the game and lost the way we played, and kind of fell apart in a way.
“I don’t think that happened tonight. Yeah, we gave up the lead, but set pieces were kind of our undoing and on the whole we were defending very well as a team. We feel a lot more confident from that standpoint and that’s a good thing heading into the playoffs.”
The rivals haven’t met in the playoffs since 2005, when the Galaxy, as the lowest seed, knocked off the top-seeded Quakes on its way to the title. Just Vancouver stands in the way of a rematch.