California Clásico

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California Clásico
California Clásico.png
LocaleCalifornia, United States
First meetingApril 28, 1996
Los Angeles 2–1 San Jose
Latest meetingJuly 12, 2019
Los Angeles 1–3 San Jose
Next meetingTBA
Meetings total87
Most winsLos Angeles (41)[1]
Top scorerLandon Donovan[1]
All-time seriesLos Angeles: 41
Drawn: 16
San Jose: 29
Largest victorySan Jose 5–2 Los Angeles (November 9, 2003)
Los Angeles 5–2 San Jose (July 17, 2015)
Los Angeles 0–3 San Jose (August 27, 2017)
San Jose 3–0 Los Angeles (June 29, 2019)

The California Clasico[2] is the name given to the soccer rivalry between the LA Galaxy and the San Jose Earthquakes. This Major League Soccer rivalry reached its zenith from 2001 to 2005, during which time the Earthquakes and the Galaxy combined to win four MLS Cup titles. The term "Clasico" is commonly used to refer to other rivalries in Spanish-speaking countries, most prominently, the Spanish Clásico between Barcelona and Real Madrid, or the Argentine Superclásico between Boca Juniors and River Plate.

Los Angeles and San Jose is considered to be one of the most historical rivalries in American soccer.[3][4] The British daily newspaper The Guardian rates "the California Clasico is perhaps the most historic and intense rivalry the league has."[5] Todd Dunivant, the retired U.S. national team and MLS player, when asked about the rivalry stated "I think it's the best rivalry in MLS, I think it's got the most history, it's got the most meaningful big games".[6]

The rivalry originated from the historical Northern California vs. Southern California sporting and cultural rivalries, as well as from the relative proximity of the cities, which are about 360 miles (580 km) apart, which allows rival fans to attend each other's games.



Donovan with the San Jose Earthquakes at the 2003 MLS Cup
The Earthquakes on the field at the Coliseum in 2008 Clasico

Unified as one single state, Northern California and Southern California share a notorious rivalry. Historically, rivalries have manifested prominently in the state's professional sports including MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL. For some fans, it is traditional to hate teams from Northern or Southern California. In 2001, both teams reached the MLS Cup 2001, with San Jose posting a 2–1 overtime victory on goals by Landon Donovan and Dwayne DeRosario. While next season, Carlos Ruiz led Los Angeles to its first MLS Cup title over the New England Revolution after San Jose was previously upset in the playoffs by the Columbus Crew. While there have been several players to play for both teams beforehand, the rivalry intensified after the Anschutz Entertainment Group (owner of the Los Angeles Galaxy) took sole ownership of the San Jose Earthquakes in December 2002.

The two teams squared off again in the first round of the 2003 MLS Cup playoffs in what would become an epic series. Los Angeles won the first game at home 2–0 in the two-game aggregate-goal series. In the second game in San Jose, the Galaxy scored two early goals to widen its aggregate lead to four goals, only to have San Jose score five unanswered goals to win the series 5–4. Many neutral MLS pundits at the time viewed that game as the best in league history. After eliminating the Galaxy, San Jose went on to defeat the Kansas City Wizards en route to winning its second MLS Cup title (over the Chicago Fire) in three years.

After a rumored buyout of the Quakes by Mexican soccer side Club América in January 2004, Earthquakes general manager Johnny Moore resigned prior to the 2004 season and was replaced by former U.S. and Galaxy defender Alexi Lalas. Under Lalas, 2004 ended up being a down year for the Quakes as it barely made the playoffs on the final day of the regular season. Both San Jose and Los Angeles were eliminated from the playoffs by Kansas City. Afterward, when Earthquakes star player Landon Donovan briefly returned to German club Bayer 04 Leverkusen after his loan agreement with San Jose expired, Lalas traded away his return rights, after which Donovan returned to play for the Galaxy. Many Earthquake fans felt betrayed and welcomed Donovan with a hostile reception when Galaxy would play at Spartan Stadium, he would be often referred to as the "American Luís Figo" as to when Figo made a hugely controversial move from Barcelona to bitter rivals Real Madrid. Several San Jose fans altered their Donovan jerseys name on the back to read "Donowho". They also brought signs with explicit messages like "Landon Judas Donovan", "PrimaDonovan Traitor" and "Donovan Is Traitor Scum."[7]

Following the departure of Lalas to become the general manager of the MetroStars early in 2005, San Jose returned to form and captured the MLS Supporters' Shield, awarded to the league's best team during the regular season. The two clubs met again in the playoffs, with Los Angeles finally winning a playoff series against San Jose thanks largely to the play of Donovan on its way to defeating New England in MLS Cup 2005.

On hiatus[edit]

The Earthquakes took a two-year hiatus from the league in 2006 and 2007 due to stadium and ownership issues. During that period, the Quakes' players and head coach were relocated to Houston, where they won two additional MLS Cup titles as the Houston Dynamo. Meanwhile, shortly after Lalas' brief stint with the MetroStars, he moved on to become the general manager of the Galaxy, who failed to make the playoffs during both years of San Jose's hiatus from the league.


Scuffles between the two teams

The San Jose Earthquakes franchise was revived by Lewis Wolff and Earthquakes Soccer, LLC, restarting the rivalry in 2008.[8] Ignominiously, both the Quakes and Galaxy tied for the worst record that season. The Quakes lost the series and thus received the dubious distinction.

On June 25, 2011, Josh Saunders came in for injured goalie Donovan Ricketts. Saunders received a red card for what appeared to be an intentional elbow to the face of Steven Lenhart. Galaxy had no more substitute goalies and were forced to use forward Mike Magee as a last resort. Magee kept a shutout as the game ended 0-0.[9]

The rivalry further intensified in 2012 when the Galaxy hosted the Earthquakes at The Home Depot Center with Galaxy taking the lead 2–0 but with 15 minutes left the Earthquakes came back and won the game 3–2. In late June, the Earthquakes played the Galaxy in front of 50,391 spectators at Stanford Stadium marking an attendance record for the Earthquakes franchise.[10] Once again the Galaxy took the lead 3–2 at half time but the Earthquakes managed to score two goals to defeat the Galaxy 4–3, David Beckham was involved in scuffles during and after the match, he was awarded a one-match ban by the MLS Disciplinary Committee.[11] The match itself was credited as one of the best MLS games in history.[12] Galaxy's Omar Gonzalez expressed that the Earthquakes were "embarrassing", "obnoxious" and "a bunch of jokes" after a 2-2 draw.[3]

The two teams met again in the Western Conference Semi-finals. San Jose defeated Los Angeles 1–0 in the first leg but the Galaxy came back and defeated the Earthquakes 3–1 at Buck Shaw Stadium, (3–2 on aggregate). It was the Earthquakes only loss at Buck Shaw all season.

In June 2013, the Clasico returned to Stanford Stadium and in stunning comeback fashion, the Earthquakes defeated the Galaxy with two goals by Shea Salinas and Alan Gordon in stoppage time (92',93') to win the game 3–2. San Jose became the first MLS team ever to win a game in extra time with 10 men after Victor Bernardez was red carded in the 77' minute.

For the first time, the California Clasico was hosted in Fresno, California, as part of the inaugural Central California Cup on February 15, 2014. The preseason exhibition match marked the first time two MLS franchises played each other in the city of Fresno.[13]

In June 2015, the Earthquakes hosted the Galaxy at Stanford in front of 50,422 spectators. The June 2016 match set a new attendance record of 50,816.

The first Clasico of 2017 took place during preseason, at Cashman Field in Las Vegas on February 11, and San Jose won after Olmes García, acquired by San Jose in the Waiver Draft but released later on during preseason, scored in the 89th minute.[14] The Earthquakes lost the first regular season Clasico of 2017 at home by a score of 4-2. During this match, new Earthquake Danny Hoesen scored his first goal for the club, Giovani dos Santos scored a penalty after a foul in the box by Kofi Sarkodie, and Víctor Bernárdez scored an own goal to give Los Angeles the 3-2 lead just before halftime.[15] The two teams met again a month later at Stanford on July 1 in front of a crowd of 50,617. Jelle van Damme opened the scoring for LA in the 11th minute off of a corner kick set piece, and LA remained in the lead until the 75th minute, when San Jose goalkeeper David Bingham earned an assist on Chris Wondolowski's equalizer. Shea Salinas scored the winner in the third minute of stoppage time, bringing his total of stoppage time Clasico winners up to two, and he received a yellow card for taking off his shirt in celebration as a tribute to former teammate and fellow stoppage time hero Alan Gordon.[16] The third official Clasico was fought just a week later on July 10, when San Jose and Los Angeles met again at Avaya Stadium, this time in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup. LA captain van Damme once again opened the scoring off of a corner kick, and once again San Jose came back to win, this time 3-2, on a Chris Wondolowski brace assisted entirely by Tommy Thompson and Hoesen's winner scored on a counter launched by Jahmir Hyka, with LA's second tally coming after an own goal that deflected off the back of San Jose keeper Andrew Tarbell. San Jose advanced to the semifinals of the tournament for the first time since 2004 and only the second time in franchise history. This match also saw Wondolowski tie Ronald Cerritos for the team's top goalscorer in the Open Cup.[17]

Supporter groups[edit]

Although historically there have been rivalries between Northern California and Southern California supporters, a bitter rivalry exists between the San Jose Ultras and the Angel City Brigade, who support Los Angeles. Supporters from both teams taunt each other with elaborate tifo displays and chants due to the passion and hate there is. Heightened security is used to ensure no violence between the opposing groups.[18] Social networking sites such as Facebook have also been used to jeer rival fans ensuring the rivalry continues outside of soccer.

Due to the relative proximity of the cities, which are about 360 miles (580 km) apart, charter buses and shuttle vans are used to allow rival fans to attend each other's games.


On October 21, 2012 during a regular season game at Buck Shaw Stadium, several LA Galaxy fans were arrested after violent altercations erupted in the stands and smoke bombs were set off during half time. In fear of causing a riot, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale police officers, some dressed in riot uniforms, arrived and cleared the Galaxy supporters section during the game.[19]

Player transfers[edit]

While the transfer of Landon Donovan from San Jose to Los Angeles caused an uproar amongst the fans, the rivalry between the two teams has not prevented players from switching teams.[citation needed]

Landon Donovan playing for Los Angeles
  • United States Curt Onalfo – with Galaxy: 1996; with Earthquakes: 1997
  • United States David Kramer – with Galaxy: 1996–1997; with Earthquakes: 1997–1999
  • Armenia Harut Karapetyan – with Galaxy: 1996–1998; with Earthquakes: 1998, 2000
  • United States Dan Calichman – with Galaxy: 1996–1998; with Earthquakes: 2000
  • United States Eddie Lewis – with Earthquakes: 1996–1999; with Galaxy: 2008–2010
  • United States Lawrence Lozzano – with Earthquakes: 1997–1998; with Galaxy: 1998–1999
  • United States Gabe Eastman – with Galaxy: 1999; with Earthquakes: 2000
  • United States Adam Frye – with Earthquakes: 1999; with Galaxy: 2000–2002
  • United States Zak Ibsen – with Galaxy: 1999–2000; with Earthquakes: 2001–2002
  • United States Joe Cannon – with Earthquakes: 1999–2002, 2008–2010; with Galaxy: 2007
  • New Zealand Simon Elliott – with Galaxy: 1999–2003; with Earthquakes: 2009
  • United States Danny Califf – with Galaxy: 2000–2004; with Earthquakes: 2005
  • United States Ian Russell – with Earthquakes: 2000–2005; with Galaxy: 2007
  • United States Brian Ching – with Galaxy: 2001; with Earthquakes: 2003–2005
  • United States Brian Mullan – with Galaxy: 2001–2002; with Earthquakes: 2003–2005
  • United States Craig Waibel – with Galaxy: 2001–2002; with Earthquakes: 2003–2005
  • United States Landon Donovan – with Earthquakes: 2001–2004; with Galaxy: 2005–2014, 2016
  • Turks and Caicos Islands Gavin Glinton – with Galaxy: 2002–2003, 2006–2007; with Earthquakes: 2008
  • Venezuela Alejandro Moreno – with Galaxy: 2002–2004; with Earthquakes: 2005
  • United States Todd Dunivant – with Earthquakes: 2003–2004; with Galaxy: 2005–2006, 2009–2015
  • United States Chris Aloisi – with Galaxy: 2004; with Earthquakes: 2005
  • United States Jovan Kirovski – with Galaxy: 2004–2005, 2009–2011; with Earthquakes: 2008
  • United States Ned Grabavoy – with Galaxy: 2004–2006; with Earthquakes: 2008
  • United States Alan Gordon – with Galaxy: 2004–2010, 2014–2016; with Earthquakes: 2011–2014
  • United States Kelly Gray – with Earthquakes: 2005, 2008–2009; with Galaxy: 2007
  • Trinidad and Tobago Cornell Glen – with Galaxy: 2006; with Earthquakes: 2009–2010
  • United States Ty Harden – with Galaxy: 2007; with Earthquakes: 2013–2015
  • United States Brandon McDonald – with Galaxy: 2008; with Earthquakes: 2009–2011
  • United States Dan Gargan – with Earthquakes: 2013; with Galaxy: 2014–2015
  • United States David Bingham – with Earthquakes: 2011–2017; with Galaxy: 2018–


Frank Yallop is the second coach to have managed both teams


LA wins Draws San Jose wins LA goals San Jose goals
MLS Regular season 31 15 24 110 98
MLS Playoffs 5 1 3 12 12
MLS Cup 0 0 1 1 2
U.S. Open Cup 5 0 1 9 5
Total 41 16 29 132 117


Team MLS Cup Supporters' Shield U.S. Open Cup Champions' Cup Total
LA Galaxy 5 4 2 1 12
San Jose Earthquakes 2 2 0 0 4


  • Los Angeles victory
  • San Jose victory
  • Draw
  • MLS Regular season[edit]

    MLS Cup Playoffs[edit]

    U.S. Open Cup[edit]


    Each season, a cup is awarded to the team that won the most points in the California Clasico during the regular season. Between 1996 and 1999, matches ending in draws were culminated in a penalty shootout with the winner of the shootout gaining one point while the losing team left with no points. This system was abolished starting with the 2000 season; a draw awarded each team 1 point.

    dagger Tie broken on goal difference
    Season Winner Aggregate
    1996 Los Angeles 10:0
    1997 San Jose 6:4
    1998 Los Angeles 5:3
    1999 Los Angeles 9:1
    2000 Los Angeles 8:2
    2001 San Jose 6:0
    2002 Los Angeles 9:3
    2003 Los Angeles 5:5 (5–3)dagger
    2004 Los Angeles 7:4
    2005 San Jose 9:3
    2008 Los Angeles 7:3
    2009 Los Angeles 5:5 (4–3)dagger
    2010 San Jose 4:1
    2011 Los Angeles 4:1
    2012 San Jose 7:1
    2013 Los Angeles 4:4 (5–3)dagger
    2014 Los Angeles 5:2
    2015 San Jose 6:3
    2016 Los Angeles 5:2
    2017 San Jose 6:3
    2018 Los Angeles 4:1
    2019 San Jose 6:0

    Popular culture[edit]

    On October 13, 2013, the California Clasico was highlighted on the TV series, MLS Insider, explaining the history of the rivalry from the different perspectives of players such as Chris Wondolowski and Landon Donovan.[20]

    See also[edit]


    1. ^ a b Rodriguez, Alicia (July 1, 2018). "San Jose Earthquakes 3, LA Galaxy 3". Retrieved February 15, 2019.
    2. ^ Jeff Carlisle (April 2, 2008). "Galaxy and Quakes resume their rivalry". ESPNsoccernet. Retrieved April 4, 2008.
      - "Quakes fall to LA's dynamic duo". Major League Soccer. April 4, 2008. Archived from the original on November 9, 2007. Retrieved April 4, 2008.
      - "Beckham, Donovan lead LA to win over Quakes". Major League Soccer. April 4, 2008. Archived from the original on April 7, 2008. Retrieved April 4, 2008.
    3. ^ a b "California Clasico back to its best, and that's just fine for the LA Galaxy". November 3, 2012. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
    4. ^ "The Throw-In: Conflicted & torn by the California Clasico". June 28, 2012. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
      - Laurie Andress (August 16, 2011). "LA Galaxy Host Rival San Jose Earthquakes Once More". LAG Confidential. Retrieved May 17, 2012.
      - Robert Jonas (June 24, 2011). "The "New" California Clasico: Earthquakes and Galaxy work to rekindle their rivalry". Quake Rattle and Goal!. Retrieved May 18, 2012.
      - Chris (June 24, 2011). "It's That Time of Year Again; California Clasico!". The Offside. Archived from the original on November 5, 2013. Retrieved May 18, 2012.
    5. ^ Parker, Graham (July 2, 2012). "MLS: Five things we learned in week 17". The Guardian. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
    6. ^ "The California Clasico: San Jose versus Los Angeles | MLS Insider Episode 14". Retrieved January 18, 2014 – via YouTube.
    7. ^ Dwight Chapin, Chronicle Senior Writer (June 26, 2005). "Donovan rattled / Earthquakes, fans get revenge on Galaxy, 'traitor'". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved January 21, 2013.
    8. ^ "San Jose Earthquakes to return to Major League Soccer in 2008". Major League Soccer. July 18, 2007. Archived from the original on March 14, 2008. Retrieved April 4, 2008.
      - HanNa Lee (December 16, 2007). "'Interstate 5' Rivalry Game to Kick Off Galaxy's 2008 Season". Canyon News. Archived from the original on July 8, 2011. Retrieved April 4, 2008.
    9. ^ French, Scott. "GALAXY: Magee hero in goalkeeping disaster – Soccer Blog – ESPN Los Angeles". ESPN. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
    10. ^ Earthquakes Media Relations (June 6, 2013). "Over 35,000 tickets sold to Quakes' June 29 game vs. Galaxy at Stanford Stadium". Retrieved June 14, 2013.
    11. ^ "Disciplinary Committee suspends Beckham for role in scuffle with Quakes". July 5, 2012. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
    12. ^ "Kick Off: SJ vs. LA joins list of best MLS matches in history". July 2, 2012. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
    13. ^ "LA Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes to play pre-season soccer match in Fresno". January 8, 2014. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
      - Moreno, Angel (January 8, 2014). "MLS' LA Galaxy, San Jose Earthquakes to play exhibition match in Fresno". Archived from the original on February 1, 2014. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
    14. ^ "MATCH RECAP: Earthquakes Defeat LA Galaxy in Las Vegas Preseason Match". San Jose Earthquakes. February 11, 2017. Retrieved August 13, 2017.
    15. ^ "RECAP: Quakes suffer loss to Galaxy in California Clasico". San Jose Earthquakes. May 27, 2017. Retrieved August 13, 2017.
    16. ^ "RECAP: Earthquakes #BeatLA 2-1 in California Clasico". San Jose Earthquakes. July 1, 2017. Retrieved August 13, 2017.
    17. ^ "RECAP: Quakes defeat LA Galaxy 3-2 to advance to U.S. Open Cup Semifinals". San Jose Earthquakes. July 10, 2017. Retrieved August 13, 2017.
    18. ^ Black, Alan. "Heart of an Ultra". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved January 21, 2013.
      - Stollar, Aaron (October 22, 2012). "Not just LA and San Jose supporters, but any MLS supporters who fight with each other need to grow up and get their act together". The Big Question. Retrieved January 21, 2013.
    19. ^ "Rowdy LA Galaxy soccer fans arrested at Earthquakes game". Archived from the original on November 25, 2012. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
      - "San Jose Earthquakes tie Los Angeles Galaxy, but altercation in stands leads to arrests". San Jose Mercury News. October 21, 2012. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
    20. ^ Curran, Olivia (October 18, 2013). "California Clasico to highlight on MLS Insider tonight". San Jose Earthquakes. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
      - "California Clasico featured on MLS Insider". LAG Confidential. Retrieved January 18, 2014.

    External links[edit]