Sunday, June 26, 2011

Only the Ultras brought any fireworks.

I woke up from my nightmare, somewhat dazed and confused, with my fingers clenched around a dense tuft of grass.  Mexico’s Dos Santos had just curled a gorgeous shot into the top left corner of the goal, just over Lichaj’s head, for the final goal in their victory over USA in the Gold Cup.  I fumbled for the remote of my new big screen TV; when I couldn’t find it I remembered that I was watching the game from my picnic blanket on the pitch at Buck Shaw stadium with other Quakes season ticket holders. 

My head gradually cleared, and I recollected a different 4-2 score line from 1966 and Kenneth Wolstenholme’s famous (if you are English of a certain age) commentary of England’s one and only World Cup victory: “Some people are on the pitch – they think it’s all over – it is now”.  I reached over for my soda and reflected on my nightmare: the San Jose Earthquakes second half performance in the home leg of this year’s California Clasico. 

The Quakes came out to a tumultuous roar, and the 1906 Ultras burst out their glaring rockets to accompany the Star Spangled Banner.  After a bright start of vigorous attacking football, an injured LA goalie, and then a red card for his replacement, the Quakes fans were engaged in the game and became optimistic we would get three points.  As Bruce Arena cast his eye over the LA squad for a third keeper, he picked Mike Magee, who is listed at 5’ 9” - an inch shorter than Jon Busch.  Magee donned Saunders’s shirt (listed at 6’ 4”) and gloves which only served to accentuate his diminutive stature – he looked so comical that three points looked to be a certainty.

The fact that Magee finished with four saves on the afternoon, with three occurring after the 80th minute, speaks to the ineffectiveness and lack of creativity of the Quakes offense to capitalize on the situation in the second half.  To be sure, Arena rearranged his team into a 5-4-0 ‘stone wall’ formation to protect the inexperienced ‘goalie’, but the Quakes still stuck with four men at the back, not pushing Burling up until the last ten minutes. 

The Quakes fans became increasingly frustrated, and their heckling of Bruce Arena faded as the game progressed.  The Galaxy held on for a 0-0 draw, and embarrassed Quakes fans examined their shoelaces as they shuffled out of the ground, with more than a few boos tossed in as the team exited.  It would only have been worse if this had been a nationally televised game.  Oh wait - never mind.

Surprisingly, the Quakes front office didn’t seem as embarrassed and considering the outcome of the game, you have to admire the positive spin on their web site:  “Quakes earn a point at home against league leaders”.  Hmm:  No Beckham or Donovan, no goalie, no backup goalie, no Earthquakes goals. Apparently no shame either?    

Only the 1906 Ultras brought any fireworks to the California Clasico
The organization is breaking out all of their marketing strategies to fill Stanford Stadium for the New York Red Bulls next weekend; there are plenty of inexpensive deals and as an added enticement there will be a spectacular fireworks display after the game.  Attendance at this week’s LA game was a franchise-record 10,872 – sadly, I have to think that few of the first time visitors (who undoubtedly contributed to that figure) saw enough fireworks from the Quakes to encourage a return visit.

1 comment: