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Monday, October 22, 2012
A crazy day for San Jose

By Jeff Carlisle

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Jose Earthquakes had plenty to celebrate on Sunday. Not only was ground broken on the team's long-awaited stadium project but the team got to celebrate its second Supporters Shield, breaking out the champagne after the team's 2-2 draw with their in-state rivals, the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Yet the day was marred by the arrest of seven fans at the match and the eventual clearing of an entire section of spectators that comprised the bulk of the Galaxy's traveling support.

According to the Santa Clara Police Department spokesman, Lt. Matt Hogan, shortly after the start of the second half, police observed fighting in a section of the stands where many Galaxy supporters were located. When they attempted to intervene, they were confronted by fans who were "confrontational with police" and who met authorities with "resistance, including the reckless discharge of a smoke device."

The SCPD then called for backup from both the San Jose Police Department and the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety; with 20 additional units on hand, order was soon restored. A total of seven arrests were made with charges ranging from battery on a peace officer to resisting arrest -- those charged were booked into Santa Clara County jail.

Hogan added that an investigation into the incident was ongoing, also noting that he didn't know the team affiliations of those arrested.

"The area where the initial fight broke out was largely L.A. Galaxy fan-based," he said. "But it's not known at this point if there were any rivals [involved], or if ... the arrested fans had one thing in common and that was if they were L.A. Galaxy fans."

But it is suspected that as many as six of those arrested are members of the Angel City Brigade, a Galaxy supporters group. The group released a statement via its Facebook page confirming that some of its members had indeed been arrested.

"Regarding the incident today at Buck Shaw stadium [sic], at no time did any member of ACB leave the Galaxy supporter section or deviate from the security plan," the statement read. "Stadium security, either knowingly or through negligence, allowed several San Jose supporters into the away supporters area who proceeded to cause disruptions. At no time did any member of ACB fail to obey law enforcement [or] resist arrest. The resulting arrests and detentions left minor children without guardians, incurred financial cost to several members and mostly likely lost time at work. We wish it known that we feel security at Buck Shaw stadium [sic] failed in their obligation to segregate supporters of different teams and provide a safe, secure environment for away fans and supporters."

(Local news footage of the arrests showed ACB fans being led away in handcuffs.)

The remaining fans in the section were escorted out of the stadium, although it wasn't clear if this was done voluntarily. According to the SCPD, no one was treated for injuries, nor was anyone transported to the hospital.

Sadly, the incident took some of the shine off what to that point had been a banner day for MLS and the San Jose Earthquakes organization. A Guinness World Record of 6,256 fans showed up to participate in the groundbreaking for a stadium that Quakes president David Kaval said was "40 years in the making."

The departure of the original MLS franchise following the 2005 campaign was in part due to the inability of previous owner AEG to get a stadium built. Soccer Silicon Valley's interim helped keep the memory of the team alive until the Quakes were resurrected in 2007, when Lew Wolff and John Fisher purchased an expansion franchise. The pair eventually coaxed a revised stadium proposal through myriad hurdles before getting final approval. So for many connected to the city of San Jose, MLS and the Earthquakes organization, the day took on special significance.

"I think the [groundbreaking] speaks to the character of this team," said MLS commissioner Don Garber. "It's always been deeply embedded in the community and frankly that's why it hurt so much when this team moved. ... It's a good moment for everybody."

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed said he thought the stadium deal was dead a dozen different times. "It was a complicated site, complicated financing, bad economy," he said. "A lot of things came into play when we were trying to make this happen. So it's the perseverance of the fans and the perseverance of Lew Wolff and the Fishers that made this possible. A lot of people would have given up a long time ago."

All that was left was for the team to celebrate the Supporters Shield that it clinched when Sporting Kansas City could only draw at New York on Saturday. Following the match, the team did just that, the locker room floor positively swimming in champagne and ice.

But now, Garber will depart San Jose with memories of the weekend from both ends of the spectrum. The growth in recent years of a supporters' culture has been embraced by MLS and has inarguably helped to grow the league's fan base. Sunday's incident won't change that, but MLS has been vigilant in making sure that supporters' groups behave themselves -- it penalized a Houston Dynamo supporters group for throwing smoke bombs on the field during several games last year -- and it seems certain that the league, in conjunction with the clubs and authorities, will do its utmost to make sure that discipline and decorum prevail.