Moving forward from their stands of solidarity with boycotts of their previous matches, the Los Angeles Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes square off in the first installment of the Cali Classico derby Saturday night.
Both teams opted not to play their scheduled matches Wednesday in a show of solidarity as players across multiple leagues committed themselves to social justice causes following the police shooting of Jason Blake in Kenosha, Wisc, resulting in multiple days without a substantial portion of scheduled games being played across the country.
"When you share a locker room, and you have to battle with that individual and you have to shed blood, sweat and tears with them, you need to have their back. And you realize that everyone is equal and it's an amazing thing," said 'Quakes striker Chris Wondolowski – the league's first known Indigenous player -- in a press conference on Thursday. "You learn so much about someone's culture, someone's heritage, who they are, why they think a certain way, why they became who they are. These are my brothers and this cause is something worth fighting for and it's something that we need."
"When we play, we put our heart and soul into our game and I know our fans watch us with our heart and soul also and I just don't think it would have been genuine for us to play tonight with other things on our mind and not putting our heart and soul into this," echoed Galaxy midfielder Sacha Kljestan. "After seeing another unarmed Black man gunned down by police and the aftermath of that and what's going on in Wisconsin right now, that was on the forefront of our minds. Enough is enough."
On the pitch, the Galaxy (1-3-2) are looking to extend their run of bragging rights in the state of California, coming off a 2-0 victory at Los Angeles FC on Sunday in the latest installment of "El Trafico." Julian Araujo set up goals by Ethan Zubak and Sebastian Lletget on either side of halftime as the Galaxy avenged a 6-2 thrashing by LAFC in Orlando in group play during the MLS Is Back tournament.
This match may be too soon for the Galaxy debut of winger Yony Gonzalez, who joined the team on loan from Portuguese side Benfica on Aug. 19 but still must acquire a P-1 visa before playing.
"We are excited to add Yony to our squad and think he can be a valuable player for us," said Galaxy coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto. "He is a player that is in the prime of his career and has a lot of technical ability on the ball. We feel that he will give our team a spark on the offensive side."
Marquee offseason signing and Mexico international Chicharito Hernandez remains sidelined with a calf injury suffered while in Orlando.
San Jose (2-1-2) is playing its first match since being ousted from the MLS Is Back tournament following a 4-1 loss to Minnesota United in the quarterfinals. The Loons are the only team to have solved the Earthquakes thus far, dealing them both their losses in all competitions while shredding Matias Almyeda's man-marking defense for nine goals.
The 'Quakes do carry a three-match, regular-season unbeaten streak from group play into this contest after posting wins over Vancouver and Chicago following a draw versus MLS Cup champion Seattle.
Wondolowski, the league's all-time leading scorer with 161 goals, has 12 in 26 career matchups with the Galaxy. He did not score in either contest last season when the Earthquakes swept both matches to improve to 5-1-1 in the last seven meetings across all competitions.
Updated August 29, 2020