Quakes finish season with a flourish
With everything in place for the San Jose Earthquakes' postseason run, Saturday's results meant more for the other Western Conference playoff teams than the Quakes.
With that in mind, did the Quakes ever entertain the thought of taking it easy the last game of the season?
Not a chance.
The Earthquakes had one of the best performances a visiting side has had against Los Angeles at The Home Depot Center in the club's 3-1 rout of the Galaxy. That the result meant little to the Quakes' postseason schedule -- San Jose had long since clinched the Western Conference's top spot -- was inconsequential.
"No matter who you play in the playoffs, it's going to be difficult," Quakes coach Dominic Kinnear said. "If we were to come in here and say, 'We'd rather play these guys,' or 'We'd rather play those guys,' you can't do that. You have to take each Saturday differently. If I were to tell these players to come in here and look for a tie or look to lose, they lose faith in you and you lose respect.
"If Colorado comes for one game or if Dallas comes for one game or L.A. comes for one game, it's difficult. We know the scenarios but I think it's unfair to say 'Well, let's take our foot off the gas because we want to play these guys.' I don't like that attitude."
As it turned out, the Quakes will be right back here next weekend. With the result, the Galaxy finished in fourth place and will host the first leg of the club's Western Conference Semifinal Series on Oct. 23.
A victory against the Galaxy at The Home Depot Center raised some eyebrows as the Galaxy had lost just twice at home before Saturday. A 3-1 victory would seem to punctuate that, but not as much as the Quakes' last two goals.
After Mark Chung put the Quakes ahead in the 42nd minute, Dwayne De Rosario sent a rocket into the back of the net from 25 yards out, a wicked laser beam that would have beaten most any 'keeper in the world.
"I was just thinking 'I'm going to hit this ball as hard as I can,'" De Rosario said. "It was one of my highlight goals off free kicks. I don't think I've ever scored a free kick like that."
The goal seemed to put the Galaxy in even more of a hole than their two-goal deficit would suggest, and Galaxy coach Steve Sampson admitted as much after the match. The Galaxy eventually cut the lead in half with a penalty-kick goal but Brian Mullan sealed the game with a seven-yard bomb in the 77th minute.
"It always feels great to score a goal and put a team down by two goals," Mullan said. "It feels even better to have played here and score a goal against them. It always feel good to score a goal against your old team."
But the Quakes did not come out of the match unscathed. Alejandro Moreno seemed to have a target on him as former Galaxy teammates Cobi Jones and Tyrone Marshall each knocked him around.
Jones slid into Moreno in the 13th minute, and the Quakes striker limped gingerly off the field afterward. Jones received only a booking for the foul. Four minutes later, however, Marshall stepped on Moreno and was sent off. In the 26th minute, Julian Nash came on for Moreno.
After the match, a visibly angry Moreno walked around on crutches and appeared upset as he sat in the locker room. Moreno will likely miss the first playoff game, team officials said after the match.
A physical match, however, was to be expected given the rivalry and history between the two sides.
"These games are physical all the time," Kinnear said. "I think both teams come out and play physical. If you were to play this game in the parking lot in two hours, it would be physical. There's just a high competitive spirit between these two teams."
Despite Moreno's loss, the Quakes victory was just mere reinforcement of the team's success this season, players said.
"It's typical of the way we've been playing," Mullan said. "We've been working hard and having fun and I just hope that continues through the playoffs."
With the rematch set for next week, a victory against the Galaxy in Carson can give the team an added boost of confidence.
"Everybody knows in this league that playing in Home Depot Center is not going to be easy," De Rosario said. "We came out here and we battled them and we finished our chances. I thought we played really well tonight as a whole unit."
Now, with the Quakes having completed the best regular season in club history, the team can be impressed with the kind of statement made Saturday. Right?
Again, no chance.
"I don't think we made any (statement) because I think the playoffs are 100 percent brand new," Kinnear said. "We're happy with the way we played but I think everyone knows the ... league starts over again in the playoffs."
Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.