The sports hatred between Northern and Southern California – and between the LA Galaxy and the San Jose Earthquakes, specifically – crackles, on a normal day, with a steady flame. For the first few days I spent in the Bay Area before Saturday’s California Clasico at Avaya Stadium, a mere mention of LA in casual conversation might be met with an “ew” or a gagging noise. The events that unfurled on Saturday night at Avaya Stadium added a big, dry pile of kindling to the fiery rivalry.
The visiting Galaxy took a 4-2 win back south in a bonkers couple of halves with deleterious blood-pressure effects. That result – along with the ups and downs along the way – only ensured that the Quakes will roar back, more mad and motivated than ever, when they re-match on July 1 at Stanford Stadium.
While Seattle rubbed salt in Portland’s CenturyLink road wounds earlier in the day, the California Clasico not-so-neatly notched even more reasons to contend for the title of bitterest rivalry. The evening, in fact, offered all the necessary ingredients for the hatred to further calcify between the two fan bases, featuring nearly every element of a historic night in a rivalry.
First off, there was the weather itself, the way the day started out sparkling with optimism. The mountains behind Avaya stood crisp against a pristine blue sky. Just enough breeze rolled in across LOBINA, where people happily tippled and danced, pre-match, to the tuba-techno-fied sounds of Nortec Collective. Even a few folks in Galaxy gear wandered among the crowd for the festivities while everything stayed copacetic.
That kind of buoyant optimism can only lead to extreme celebration or disappointment, and for a good stretch of the night, it seemed like it'd be No. 1 for San Jose supporters. Here’s another good element in a rivalry match – a hometown hero making good. That came early courtesy of wonderful Wondo, whose legacy for club stays stellar in his hometown. Who else deserved, really, to score that first goal in front of an adoring crowd in the area in which he grew up?
"He Bangs In Goals." just repeat that sentence like 250 times. https://t.co/eFfAiYoh8a— Mike V (@FifthMike) May 28, 2017
And even though Joao Pedro pulled the Galaxy level just a few minutes later, at that point, the match was young. And Quakes fans got more reason to cheer at the 37th minute, when the under-the-radar Danny Hoesen made it 2-2 seconds after Giovani dos Santos buried a penalty to give the Galaxy a 2-1 lead.
But soon after is when the mood turned palpably sour – or rather, eerily quiet. That’s how you know, in fact, that a goal or result truly stings. When Victor Bernardez's own goal made it 3-2 for the Galaxy before the half, it seemed as though there was a vacuum at Avaya Stadium rather than any sound at all.
We know what happened ultimately during the second half, of course. But it’s the little details that only served to stoke the hate between the two sides. The Galaxy have often relished their bad-guy role at large, and their captain, at least, relished in playing it with absolutely no chill:
A solid rivalry needs a solid heel turn, and this served as promo-cutting at its finest. There’s no way the Quakes will let that go easily – especially when, for long stretches at a time, the teams seemed evenly matched. Count down the days to the next California Clasico. With the drama still fresh on everyone’s mind, the Quakes could well claw back and shatter some earth.