It was October 30 – the second-to-last round of the 2021 MLS season – when the San Jose Earthquakes last celebrated a win away from PayPal Park.
On Wednesday night, looking for a first triumph in 2022 outside of the Bay Area (0W-6L-3D), the Quakes found themselves off to a flying start during Heineken Rivalry Week behind a 3-0 first-half lead against the LA Galaxy in Carson. And while the latest chapter in the long-running Cali Clasico derby wasn't without its usual twists and turns, San Jose walked off the Dignity Health Sports Park pitch a winner, holding on for a 3-2 victory to end their lengthy road skid.
The Quakes also made history with the win, beating the Galaxy on the road in back-to-back regular-season matches for the first time in the longstanding rivalry that traces its roots back to MLS's first season in 1996.
For a while, this looked as if it would be smooth sailing for the visitors, thanks to a 13th-minute penalty conversion by Cristian Espinoza and Jeremy Ebobisse's 11th goal of the season shortly thereafter, before Marcos Lopez stretched the lead to three in the 40th minute.
"The first half ... we played amazing," said Earthquakes interim head coach Alex Covelo. "I think [it was] one of the best halves that we have played [this season]."
Like most matches between the two clubs, though, there was drama to deal with before referee Allen Chapman blew for full-time. Red-hot Dejan Joveljic pulled one back for the Galaxy in the 48th minute before completing his brace with less than two minutes left in normal time as LA controlled much of the second half.
But this one belonged to the Quakes, with the win placing them on 22 points – two clear of last place in the Western Conference standings.
"In the second half, I think it was important to break that barrier psychologically," Covelo said, remarking that the Quakes' performance in the second half versus the first half was like watching two different matches. "We knew that we had to suffer [to win] and we suffered, and that's why we got the three points today."
And while Wednesday marked the Quakes' first road victory of 2022, it was also the first time they had beaten the Galaxy in Carson in back-to-back regular-season outings, their last trip to DHSP on Aug. 20, 2021 ending in a 2-1 win.
"It's important to keep it in perspective while appreciating the level of accomplishment and the level of desire that it took to get this victory done tonight," said Ebobisse, who matched his season-high in goals on Wednesday. "Three goals in Carson with this rivalry is never easy. To win back-to-back times here is something I know our whole entire club appreciates, and now we have to build off of it."
With the latest edition of the Cali Clasico in the rear-view mirror, the Quakes hope it's a jumping-off point for a further push toward their first trip to the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs since 2020. Ebobisse referenced Wednesday's win as a "learning moment" the team can apply to future matches, while recalling San Jose's match at Vancouver Whitecaps FC on May 14 that saw them concede a late goal and settle for a draw.
"I remember saying to some of the guys in the locker room [after the Vancouver match], 'We need guts in those moments. We need to show the ability to close games out in the ugliest ways possible on the road'," he said. "At times it was ugly tonight, at times JT [Marcinkowski] needed to make saves, but at times we managed the game really well.
" ... If we can put together 90-minute games plus, I think we can do something special, something that maybe seemed out of reach a few months ago."