When the 2010 MLS schedule came out, it seemed like an odd quirk that the Los Angeles Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes, rivals for a dozen different reasons, wouldn’t play each other until the season was halfway gone.
Now, it seems like someone had a keen sense of the dramatic.
By the time the intrastate clubs renew their acquaintance at the Home Depot Center on July 22, the Quakes may have cemented their status as the primary challenger to the Galaxy’s domination of the Western Conference.
Heading into this weekend, San Jose are tied for second in the West with 16 points, but hold a game on Real Salt Lake and two on Houston. They’re also riding a four-game shutout streak and hold a 5-1-1 record since opening night.
So while the Quakes will jump to tell you that they’re not looking past their upcoming stretch of three matches in eight days—including Eastern Conference-leading Columbus, the only team with more points than San Jose—they’re still keeping tabs on the Galaxy’s position in the MLS firmament.
“Don’t think that we’re not seeing LA killing everyone, and everyone’s crowning them champs already,” Quakes right back Chris Leitch told MLSsoccer.com. “We see that, for sure. We just know that we have a lot of games before we play them. I know it’s a cliché, but you’ve got to take it one game at a time.
"With that said, I’m sure that LA game is going to be a highly anticipated game, especially for us. They’re our rivals and we’re going to look to see if we can’t slow that run they’re on right now.”
Quakes coach Frank Yallop, who coached the Galaxy in 2006 and ’07, is studiously avoiding scrutiny of the Western Conference standings, choosing instead to focus on meeting his own internal goals.
“I want to make sure we maintain a good standard of play,” Yallop told MLSsoccer.com. “We can’t look at all of what we’ve done so far. We’ve got to keep going and get as many wins as we can. I just look at us, what we’re doing and how many points we have. We have a target in my mind, what we need to get to in terms of wins and points.”
Yallop declined to reveal his personal benchmarks, but it’s safe to assume that their current pace—which would get them to 60 points if it extended for a full season—has been deemed suitable.
It’s a start that has helped put to rest memories of early-season stumbles by the Quakes in each of the last two years.
“What we’ve done this year is really focus on us as our team, and not really look too much into other teams and worry about what they’re bringing to the table or their results,” Leitch said. “We’ve really looked within ourselves and said, ‘What can we do to position ourselves so that we don’t do what we did last year?’
"I’m sure once it starts getting deeper and deeper into the season, we’ll start looking around a little bit more and saying, ‘OK, where do we stand?’”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @sjquakes