The LA Galaxy are looking at the resumption of MLS play, following the brief World Cup break, as something of a new season, one in which they promise to be sharper and to get what they deserve from games they dominate.
It worked wonderfully Saturday night, in a tough 1-0 triumph over California Clasico rival San Jose that they proclaimed their most complete performance of the season.
"I'm real pleased with the win," head coach Bruce Arena told reporters at Stanford University after his team extended their MLS unbeaten streak to five games, their longest since 2012. "I thought our guys played a pretty steady game, we scored a great goal, our young center backs did a good job defensively.
"I think, overall, this was our best effort as a team, our concentration over 90 minutes. So this is a game that I think we deserve to win, and we've been certainly pushing our group to try to be able to perform like this. So a really positive win."
Gyasi Zardes finished a brilliant sequence, one that drew mentions of Barcelona, in the 61st minute, a diamond midfield with Landon Donovan in the attacking role commanded the center of the field, and solid defending – with Kofi Opare and Tommy Meyer paired in the middle – denied the Earthquakes a shot on frame until the 88th minute.
“We talked over the last three days about concentrating for 90 minutes," Donovan said. "We've played well through a lot of stretches in a lot of games, but we've let our concentration go. Tonight everyone was tuned in. When one guy couldn't make the play, the next guy made it. I thought we were excellent tonight.”
The sequence leading to Zardes' fourth goal in his last four games, including US Open Cup play, was a delight of nearly a dozen passes, with Marcelo Sarvas collecting a Robbie Keane chip at the penalty spot and laying it off for the young forward to finish.
“If Barcelona scored a goal like that, people would be talking about it for weeks," Donovan said. "It was a good sequence. It was a great ball by Robbie, great run by Marcelo, and Gyasi peeled off with a great run and a finish, so I think it was as good a team goal as you'll seen in this league.”
Arena said Meyer played the "best game of his career."
“We talked before the game about having each other's back," Meyer said. "With Lenhart, he flicks the ball on and gets in dangerous positions, so we had to make sure he was marked up. Even going forward, we were able to keep the ball, which kept a lot of pressure off of us in the back."
The Galaxy (5-3-5) are home for their next three games – starting with a Fourth of July tilt against Portland – and five of their next seven. They climbed into sixth in the Western Conference, even on points but ahead of the Timbers, and have games in hand on every rival. They feel good about where they are, but they aren't getting too cocky.
"It's only the 13th game this season," Arena noted, "so we're not ready to have a parade in downtown L.A. We'll see if we can keep going."