The Quakes dreamed it big, and it was big.
Last year’s Earthquakes-L.A. Galaxy game at Stanford Stadium had a breathless quality for players and fans, as the Quakes rallied for a 4-3 win in front of 50,391 fans.
Now everyone is ready - really ready - for the next California Clasico: Quakes vs. Galaxy, June 29, at Stanford Stadium. It’s the hottest ticket in town.
Here is how longtime Quakes’ fan Colin G. McCarthy described last year’s masterpiece: “Awesome,” says McCarthy, founder and president of Soccer Silicon Valley. “It’s one of the best games I’ve ever seen. It’s really high up there.
"The Quakes have had some great games against L.A.," he said. "The greatest game I’ve ever been to is, obviously, the 5-2 victory at Spartan Stadium in the playoffs in 2003 (to prevail 5-4 on aggregate). But this one was very close to that in terms of excitement, meaning, because they’re always a close rival. The Ultras’ Tifos were amazing. The Army was there. It was well-organized, and then you couldn’t have scripted (the outcome) better. You had the fight with the mascot -- David Beckham pushing our mascot over, kicking our player with the ball … It had everything.”
Indeed, Quakes-Galaxy games have had “everything” for a long time. Moreover, the fact that an MLS match in the Bay Area, without an international game in tow, could attract 50,000 fans provided a sense of nirvana for diehard fans. They were a part of something special and historical.
“There’s always been this Quakes-Galaxy rivalry – It’s what I call the true rivalry in North America,” says Brian Holmes, who owns Soccer International in Santa Clara. “You might have one from D.C. to New York, but it’s not a really good one. The one here on the West Coast is the real classic-type rivalry. Same state, within driving distance, and they don’t like each other, so it’s one of those things that makes it great. It can pull a good crowd in without a doubt.”
McCarthy added, “The fans come because of the rivalry. They want badly to beat LA.”
Longtime Quakes fan Lee Munson of Brentwood would agree. He plans to begin tailgating with his dad, Fred, at Stanford at 2 p.m., as soon as the gates open. He takes the rivalry personally.
“It’s the Clasico, man,” Lee Munson says. “This is the game you do not lose. Just beating these guys means the season. You can lose to anybody else but them. Since MLS came in, the rivalry has always been there.”
In last season’s thriller at Stanford, the Quakes showed remarkable team spirit and skill, rallying from a 3-1 deficit under former coach Frank Yallop. Chris Wondolowski added to his legacy with the winner on a back-heel flick. Then he celebrated with members of the military on Military Appreciation Night.
Sash Migay of Brentwood, who is part of a hearty East Contra Costa group that attends Quakes games, believes that big, loud crowds really bring the heat on the Galaxy.
“Yes, I love the Stanford venue. It brings backs memories of the 1994 World Cup venue,” Migay says. “I think the Quakes need to lobby to get a U.S. qualifier or a friendly there someday. With the new Quakes stadium coming next year, I can’t wait for the Quakes to bring in big games with big teams, and if they need a stadium with a 50,000 capacity in Stanford Stadium, they have it.”
Few understand all aspects of the evolution of pro soccer in San Jose better than Holmes, who grew up in England playing “football.” Holmes moved to San Jose in the 1970s, when he met Earthquakes star Paul Child, who invited him to attend a game. Leonard met then-owner Milan Mandaric, who asked him to help out “because I had some ideas with the team,” Holmes recalls.
Mandaric, the Quakes first owner, and Child, who led the North American Soccer League in scoring with 15 goals in 1974, were inducted in the Earthquakes Hall of Fame last year.
A former Quakes part-owner who has handled a variety of roles with the club, Holmes currently works for MLS, making sure the Quakes and other teams do things on time and on schedule, along with overseeing field prep work. He also handles printing and embroidery for clubs and businesses. Holmes knows the soccer score.
He is thrilled that the Quakes are opening a new soccer-specific stadium in 2014, the first of its kind in Northern California.
“I am one of those old-school guys that prefers a small stadium,” Holmes said. “The team that I rooted for back in England had an 18,000-seat stadium, which they can fill sometimes. To me, 18,000 is perfect as long as you leave space to enlarge it up to 25,000 to 27,000, and that’s pretty big. I hate to see 45,000-50,000-seat stadiums with 10,000 people in them. We had a lot of that with the NASL, and to me, that was depressing. … Get a small stadium, fill it up.”
Now it’s time for the Clasico.
"This will be our third year at Stanford with a huge crowd, and that’s exciting for anybody involved in soccer,” Quakes general manager John Doyle says. “For our club, it’s exciting with the new stadium being built. The building going on is just phenomenal. We’re everyday looking, wanting more to happen, things to go faster and to be there. Instead of going to Stanford, we’re going to be here with a sold-out crowd all the time.”
Even still, Doyle describes being able to fill up Stanford Stadium again for the Clasico as "incredible."
And if it's even half as exciting as last year's event, "incredible" might be an understatement.
- Richter Media