CARSON, Calif. -- The San Jose Earthquakes were weary in their third road game over eight days -- and in Southern California's unseasonably hot and heavy conditions -- but their new formation was generating chances and they weren't allowing the LA Galaxy much space to create an attack.
Then Omar Gonzalez headed away a free kick, a quick pass found Robbie Keane at midfield, and the Galaxy's captain looped a ball over the Quakes' backline for Landon Donovan to finish, and that was that.
San Jose, as good or better than their hosts through the first 25 minutes Saturday night at the StubHub Center, never recovered after the Galaxy surged ahead and matched their biggest loss -- a 3-0 decision -- in the California Clasico rivalry since their return to MLS in 2008.
Donovan gave the Galaxy a 26th-minute lead and Keane converted a penalty kick just before halftime and volleyed home a third midway through the second half as LA thoroughly dominated the Quakes.
“We know that they're a very dangerous team,” San Jose coach Mark Watson said afterward. “When they're on form, they're the best team in the league. If we give them time and space, they were going to hurt us. I thought we were pretty good until the first goal.
“I thought our shape was good, we worked hard, we had a bunch of chances, and the really disheartening thing is one of the main focuses in the short couple of days we had to prepare for them, we talked about the counterattack, and, ultimately, that was the first goal.”
The Quakes had rallied from two-goal deficits to win in three of the past four regular-season meetings with the Galaxy -- they scored twice in stoppage to beat LA at Stanford in July -- and they overcame two LA leads for a draw in the fourth. This time they had no answer.
“They have great players. Give them a couple chances, they'll finish it,” said Chris Wondolowski, who played in central midfield in a 4-1-4-1 alignment. “We weren't quite sharp enough. We did some OK things but just weren't able to sustain that throughout 90 minutes. The defense played well, but give them three chances, they'll bury those.”
With three players suspended and Shea Salinas unable to go the full 90, Watson opted for the 4-1-4-1 -- with Steven Lenhart alone up top and Wondolowski and Alan Gordon right behind him -- and they nearly took the lead in the 10th minute, when Wondolowski volleyed a corner kick at LA goalkeeper Jaime Penedo.
They didn't have another truly dangerous opportunity until the game was out of reach.
“I thought [the alignment] was good up until the goal,” said Watson, whose team traveled to Dallas (where it drew last weekend) and Guatemala City (a loss Wednesday to Heredia in a CONCACAF Champions League clash) before getting to Los Angeles. “I thought the guys in the short time we had to work on it, they did it well. We looked solid. [The Galaxy] weren't getting any dangerous chances up to that point. Prior to their first goal, we were doing well.”
“They deserved it. We didn't deserve it,” Wondolowski said. “It's not like we're looking at it saying hey, we could have at least got a draw out of it.”