SAN JOSE, Calif. – With more than 750 MLS games’ worth of combined experience roaming the touchline at StubHub Center, there will be a rivalry within the rivalry at the California Clasico on Sunday (7 pm ET, FS1).
The result between the San Jose Earthquakes and LA Galaxy will ultimately be earned by the players on the pitch, but the tactical jousting between San Jose coach Dominic Kinnear and his opposite number, Bruce Arena, bears watching as well.
“They’re two guys that everyone respects and knows that they have a lot of success in this league,” Quakes winger Shea Salinas told reporters Monday. “So going into this game, you know that they take this game just as seriously as we do. They want to beat each other. It’s a nice rivalry.”
To hear Kinnear tell it, there’s not that much of a rivalry between him and Arena, who rank second and third in MLS regular-season games coached, trailing only Sigi Schmid of the Seattle Sounders. Or, if there is one, it’s pretty one-sided.
“As far as personal battles … Let’s be honest: You look at records, Bruce is the best coach ever in American soccer history,” Kinnear said. “If anybody wants to argue it, you just break out the end-of-the-year awards that he’s had, and you can’t compare. But I don’t look at it and go, ‘I want to match wits up against Bruce.’ I just go, ‘I want my team to win today.’”
Kinnear has in fact won his fair share against Arena, going 8-7-1 in head-to-head regular-season matchups stretching back to 2007, when Kinnear was coaching the Houston Dynamo and Arena led the New York Red Bulls. But Arena has triumphed all three times they met in the playoffs, including victories in the 2011 and ’12 MLS Cup finals.
“I just want to beat him,” Kinnear said of Arena. “But it’s no different than – we played Owen Coyle [and the Dynamo] on Wednesday, and that could be a little bit more personal for me, because I was with Houston for nine years. And it doesn’t mean a thing. It’s mostly the teams that are playing. I just want to win. So if it’s Sigi or Bruce or Peter Vermes, who is a good friend of mine, at the end of the day, hopefully my team will win.”
San Jose have gone 0-3-2 in their last five trips to LA, last coming away with a road win in the 2012 playoffs – a 1-0 decision that the Galaxy quickly reversed in 3-1 fashion at Buck Shaw Stadium, unceremoniously dumping the Supporters’ Shield-winning Quakes out of the postseason. LA won 3-1 at StubHub Center in March, scoring all their goals after Simon Dawkins was sent off in first-half stoppage time.
Also of note: if the Quakes (who are also 0-3-2 on the road overall this year) come away with a victory Sunday, it would push San Jose above their southern rivals in the Western Conference standings.
“They seem to be the ones that have the players, have the names that can intimidate the game in a lot of ways, so you have to be at your top when you beat them,” Kinnear said of LA. “I think it’s an accomplishment when you do.”