Here’s a question most people won’t think to ask: Did Terry Donahue watch the Los Angeles Galaxy’s Major League Soccer playoff game against the San Jose Clash on Thursday night?
If he did, the former UCLA football coach would have seen his son-in-law play the game of his life, scoring the only goal in the Clash’s hard-fought and well-deserved 1-0 victory in front of a Spartan Stadium crowd of 17,109.
“This could be the best day of my life, besides getting married,” said Tayt Ianni, a 24-year-old former Bruin from Lodi who married Donahue’s daughter, Nicole, earlier this year.
Ianni’s header in the 36th minute gave the Clash a one-game lead in the best-of-three Western Conference series. Game 2 is at the Rose Bowl on Sunday.
“To beat L.A., where I went to school and have a lot of friends, is great,” Ianni said. “It’s a great win for our team and we’re halfway there [to the next round].”
Credit for the goal belongs in part to Clash Coach Laurie Calloway, who spent the past week encouraging Ianni to attack the far post on corner kicks. The result was an excellent goal, Ianni’s first in, well, years.
“Gosh, we gotta go way back,” Ianni said of his last goal. “I didn’t score at UCLA and I didn’t score overseas [playing in Thailand and Germany]. I really don’t want to say this, but I think it might have been in high school. My job is primarily defensive.”
So, did his father-in-law see the game-winner?
“He’s back at home and hopefully he watched it. I’m sure he’ll see the [video] tape.”
Calloway said Ianni’s goal sent a message to the Galaxy, which had defeated the Clash in all four regular-season games.
“There are a lot of things to be proud of tonight,” he said. “It’s great for young Ianni. He’s an unknown [who has] come through and won us the game and got us some respect, hopefully, in that little city down south.”
The first half was played at a furious pace, with the Clash looking especially dangerous and creating a half-dozen scoring chances.
The first came in the seventh minute when defender Oscar Draguicevich sprang free forward Missael Espinoza against Galaxy goalkeeper Jorge Campos with a long cross-field pass. Espinoza somehow pushed his 15-yard shot just wide of the left post.
The crowd, loud and boisterous from the opening whistle, turned up the volume five minutes later when Espinoza again got free on the right. This time Galaxy defender Curt Onalfo got his head down just in time to deflect Espinoza’s cross away.
The Galaxy responded with a fierce shot from Mauricio Cienfuegos that was saved by Clash goalkeeper Dave Salzwedel and back-to-back efforts by Greg Vanney, both blocked.
The remainder of the half belonged to San Jose. Ben Iroha sent a shot screaming just over the Galaxy crossbar with 14 minutes left and Jorge Rodas came even closer with just under 10 minutes to go.
Finally, the Galaxy defense cracked.
A corner kick by Eric Wynalda on the left found Ianni unguarded at the far post, and he leaped to head the ball past Campos from a yard or two out. It was a horrendous miscue by the Galaxy defense and fitting reward for the Clash, which outshot Los Angeles, 10-3, in the half.
The second 45 minutes were only slightly less hectic. San Jose concentrated on protecting its lead, but the Galaxy offense was toothless, seldom creating any dangerous opportunities.
The closest it came to scoring was in the final 20 minutes when Jose Vasquez sent a header hit the right goal post and when a header by Campos, brought out to play forward late in the game, was well saved.