If there’s anyone equipped with the know-how to slow down a rampaging LA Galaxy star Landon Donovan, it might just be San Jose Earthquakes head coach Frank Yallop. That’s an especially good thing for the Quakes given that the Galaxy bring their three-match winning streak to Stanford Stadium on Saturday for a nationally televised appearance before a 50,000-strong sell-out crowd (10 pm ET, ESPN2, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
Yallop’s expertise should come into play because the resurgent Donovan – who scored three times as the Galaxy swept to three victories in a seven-day stretch – has found success of late playing at the top of LA’s formation. And that’s exactly where Yallop liked to use the US international when he coached the Galaxy in 2006-07.
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“I think that’s a good spot for him, especially with Robbie Keane, who’s a great footballer,” Yallop told reporters Thursday after training. “He’s very active. ...
“Landon’s obviously a quality player. He’s got so much pace, and you’ve got to keep an eye on him at all times. You’ve got to be aware of his late runs. He’s the best in the business at arriving late on the scene or on a breakaway.”
That was how Donovan almost single-handedly destroyed Real Salt Lake in the Galaxy’s stunning 3-2 fight-back from a two-goal deficit. And it’s a little reminiscent of San Jose forward Chris Wondolowski, who sits atop the MLS leader board with 13 goals thanks in large part to his ability to simply disappear from defenders despite remaining in plain sight.
“He’s quick and he likes to move off the ball, so we have to pay attention,” Quakes defender Steven Beitashour said of Donovan. But with Keane back from Ireland national team duty and David Beckham helping to quarterback an improving attack, getting a win is not just a matter of stopping the all-time leading scorer in US national team history.
“It’s more that we do the right things as a defense,” said Beitashour.
The good news is that Quakes have come out of the blocks from their nearly four-week break from league play flying defensively. San Jose haven’t allowed a goal from the run of play for 162 minutes – even if they needed goal-mouth clearances from Justin Morrow and Jason Hernandez last Saturday in Salt Lake to secure a 2-1 victory — with newcomer Víctor Bernárdez healthy again at the heart of the Quakes’ back four.
“He’s a physical presence for us, and he brings that mentality for us,” Beitashour said.
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.