Quakes learning to play together
The San Jose Earthquakes felt indifferent to playing their first match against new Los Angeles Galaxy star Landon Donovan, the star formerly known as an Earthquake who guided the franchise to MLS Cups in 2001 and 2003 in his four years with the club.
The Earthquakes did have plenty of thoughts about the cohesion on the pitch that led to two soft goals, little attacking presence and a 2-1 defeat to the Galaxy at The Home Depot Center on Saturday night.
Having lost four starters in two weeks -- right back Craig Waibel (damaged right knee ligaments) and center back Troy Dayak (torn ACL in the left knee) gone for the season and winger Brian Mullan (ankle) and target striker Brian Ching (hamstring) for 4-6 weeks -- forced Quakes coach Dominic Kinnear to field a patchwork side that performed in, well, disjointed fashion.
"We're missing some character players," Earthquakes goalkeeper Pat Onstad said. "Everyone in the league will get some injuries. Hopefully, nobody will have the same injury bug as us. We still feel we've got some depth."
Asked if that depth is good enough to compete for the Western Conference, Kinnear replied, "Our first goal always is to make the playoffs.
"The effort from the guys tonight, you can't complain about that," Kinnear added. "It's never good timing for injuries. But it happens. We just made a couple of mistakes. Both of (the Galaxy's goals) were soft. The first one, we lost the ball in midfield. The second goal is a great goal by them, terrible defending by us."
Donovan helped the Galaxy to the opening goal, pouncing on midfielder Danny O'Rourke's attempted back pass just inside his own half, streaking 30 yards ahead before cutting a pass to Peter Vagenas, who laid off for Jovan Kirovski's solid 25-yard shot that deflected off the foot of O'Rourke, desperately tracking back to atone for his mistake, and inside the near post.
The match-winner fell to the Galaxy in the 77th minute as Naldo da Conceicao, a substitution in the same minute, chased down an errant header near the end line on the left after Chris Aloisi flicked on a high ball sent forward. Naldo curled a cross in for an unmarked Vagenas, who headed into the top, near corner.
"The first goal was just a little unlucky. I'm going one way (to the far side) and the now the ball's going the other way," Onstad said. "We didn't have a good first half. Our passing was poor, but we didn't get terribly punished for it. We were only down 1-0."
The halftime deficit and the sending off of Galaxy rookie center back Ugo Ihemelu with his second caution in the 63rd minute gave the Earthquakes the impetus to go forward.
In the 69th minute, Mark Chung, acquired from Colorado Thursday, received a ball down the left from Dwayne De Rosario, turned defender Todd Dunivant near the edge of the area to put in a one-bounce center behind the Galaxy defense, where Cerritos slid to first-touch home with his right foot inside the six-yard box.
Chung met his new teammates at the airport Friday after requesting a trade from Colorado, presumably no longer enchanted with the Rapids' style of play.
"I would've rather not come in and the team win," said Chung, who has yet to have a training session with San Jose. "First of all, you try to make the simplest pass and look to give defensive support, and when you're in the attacking third, you try to make something happen.
"This is a good team, an exciting team, and it's the type of soccer I like to play. I know I'm going to enjoy it here."
Apart from Cerritos' seventh career goal against the Galaxy, San Jose mustered just one first-half shot and another weak, stoppage time shot on target former the former El Salvador international in the second half.
"I was watching Mark years ago and I knew his move. I know he goes to the end line and then comes back so I was waiting for that cross," said Cerritos, who added offensive rhythm without Mullan and Ching is hard to come by.
"It's not going to be easy because they're huge players, but what can you do? Maybe we have to take more responsibility in practice first, then in the game. We have to work hard. The first half was really hard for the team because we didn't look to go forward. Then, when we tied the game, we went back to playing like the first half."
As for the Quakes' opinion on seeing Donovan, having shed the blue and white shirt and now wearing the green and gold No. 10 jersey for the first time?
"It's weird seeing him in a different uniform," Kinnear said. "He hasn't been around for a while. No opinion."
"We moved on," Onstad added. "We assumed he was going to be playing in Germany. Unfortunately, he's with our biggest rival now. He's a good guy and the guys have always got along with him. It will be more interesting when he comes up (to Spartan Stadium on June 25) to play us. I hope the crowd gets on him. That's what we're counting on. To a certain extent, I think some (fans) are a little jaded about him."
Damian Secore is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.