Shrader: The return is imminent
This is kind of a "Happy to be in San Jose" kind of week for the Earthquakes.
In a 3-0 win over Real Salt Lake, the goals were scored by Mark Chung (who came to the Quakes in May), Kelly Gray (a San Jose native who came to the Quakes five days earlier) and Wade Barrett (who came back to the Quakes after two years in Scandinavia).
Will this also be a "Happy to see a former Quake back in San Jose" kind of a week? It depends on whom you talk to.
"I'm sure there will be some people happy and excited to see me," said Landon Donovan, who will be on the Spartan Stadium turf Saturday night in a Los Angeles Galaxy uniform. "And I assume there will be people who are not happy to see me."
We won't relive the entire sordid affair that led to Donovan's re-entry to MLS and his reported $4.5 million dollar deal in Los Angeles. Suffice it to say, the Quakes fans aren't so sure Landon is entirely innocent when it comes to his role in the move to Southern California, after spending only 14 weeks in Germany.
Back in Major League Soccer is one thing, say the fans, but in Los Angeles? Just the latest and greatest sign of how much respect the American soccer powers have for the San Jose market.
Landon says hold on a minute.
"I think some people think (my going to L.A.) was only a soccer decision," he said. "Like San Jose wasn't good enough for me, so I had to go play for the Galaxy. It had absolutely nothing to do with that, and I hope people would realize that. But some people won't and that's the way it is."
To support Donovan's contention, let me remind you that the Quakes have two MLS titles, the Galaxy have one, and have lost three times in the final, including a golden-goal loss to the Quakes in MLS Cup 2001. A brand new stadium and all the help in the world don't necessarily make a champion.
Four-time champions D.C. United have reportedly been sold to a group headed by club president Kevin Payne, and assuming AEG sells the Quakes, they will have three teams left in their stable: L.A., Chicago and the Metrostars - teams that all told have as many championships as the Quakes: two.
Donovan, the 23-year-old Southern California native who now lives near the beach with his actress/girlfriend, Bianca Kajlich, says his personal happiness was the most important thing. And Landon says he's never been happier. "When I came back to MLS, I was hoping to play in L.A.," he said. "When it was made clear to me that could happen, it was an easy decision."
While Donovan comes to town in the opponent's jersey, some things don't change. It will still be Landon Donovan vs. Danny Califf, who came to the Quakes after five years in a Galaxy uniform.
"I am excited," said Califf. "I want to kick Landon because I've always wanted to kick Landon. It's nothing new for me. I'm excited to get a chance to go up against him."
I think, for the most part, so are all the Quakes. They love Landon, they are happy to have had four years - and the two titles - together, but, like the fans, the Quakes are a little tired of other teams and other markets getting favorable treatment. They're tired of talking about possible moves and possible sales and other teams playing in the "Cathedral of American Soccer."
And the Quakes - with that 3-0 domination of Real Salt Lake last week at Spartan Stadium - feel like they got their home field advantage back just in time. "Hopefully we come back into the dressing room with the same feeling next week against L.A.," said Dwayne De Rosario, who scored the game-winner in that MLS Cup 2001 victory.
"I think it's going to be a good, hard game this week," said Califf. "I don't think it's one of those games that is going to be pretty at all. It's going to be a roll up your sleeves and watch your ankles kind of game."
About 9 p.m. PT on Saturday night, we'll see who is happiest to be in San Jose.
John Shrader has been the voice of the Earthquakes since 1996 and has worked in television and radio in the Bay Area for the past 20 years. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.