CARSON, Calif.—The LA Galaxy had most of the possession in Saturday night's first California Clasico of the season, and they did a pretty good job with it between the boxes, but the San Jose Earthquakes had reason to be pleased as the first half neared its finish.
Then Simon Dawkins was sent off for a challenge from behind on Sebastian Lletget, the Quakes struggled after the break to deny the Galaxy space, and Gyasi Zardes scored twice in the first 17 minutes of the first half as LA pulled away to a 3-1 triumph at StubHub Center.
The often chippy match featured more cards than scoring chances – seven yellow cards, three of them to San Jose, plus Dawkins' red – and turned on the Earthquakes Designated Player's expulsion on the last boot of the first half.
“It hurt us, playing down a man – especially for a good period of time is always difficult,” said Quakes coach Dominic Kinnear. “0-0 at halftime's not so bad on the road, but knowing that we were going to be down a man [for the final 45 minutes], it was going to be a tough thing for us, and it was.”
Dawkins tracked Lletget dribbling out of LA's defensive third, coming from behind and hooking his right leg across the Galaxy forward's legs, and referee Ismail Elfath instantly pulled out the red card.
“It's not a red card, simple as that,” Dawkins said. “I've seen it already. I've seen the highlights. It's obviously disappointing because we were down to 10 men, and it's hard for the team to stand a chance. Having seen it again, I know I've won the ball [against Lletget]. I thought it at the time, and I've seen it on the replay.”
The Quakes, whose approach throughout was defensive, looked to bunker in the second half, but Zardes beat Chris Wondolowski and Fatai Alashe to a Jelle Van Damme header toward the left post from Mike Magee's chip to give LA a 56th-minute lead. Zardes scored another six minutes later.
Wondolowski scored his third goal of the season in the 89th minute – extending the Quakes scoring streak to 16 matches – and Robbie Keane converted a stoppage-time penalty kick for the Galaxy's third goal.
“We were sitting pretty deep … and we were kind of bogging down the middle,” Kinnear said. “The only thing was we weren't passing out of pressure very well, so it was giving them opportunities to keep us in our own end. We talked about our first pass going forward and supporting, which I thought our first pass was going forward, but we weren't supporting fast enough, which made it difficult for us to get out of our own half.
“We were [bunkering with 10 men]. That first goal, it kind of makes you go, 'OK, OK, we can't really hold them that much, we've got to try to go forward a little bit,' but we still conceded a lot of space because we had to.”
Dawkins thought San Jose was playing well until he left, “and even [then] we did well.”
“But they had a lot of possession of the ball,” he added, “and once I got sent off, it was difficult for our players to get hold of the game. It's disappointing, obviously, because I felt hard done by it.”