Los Angeles Galaxy: How the San Jose Earthquakes Were Finally Beaten
The "Quakes" brought a 1-0 advantage with them to Buckshaw Stadium after stunning the Galaxy with a stoppage time goal from a set piece in the first leg of the series. That lead was not enough for the Supporters' Shield winners. Not even their seemingly magical tendency to find ways to score late in games could help them.
Before the Galaxy take on the Seattle Sounders on Sunday in the Western Conference Finals, let's take a look at how Los Angeles defeated the Earthquakes.
Omar Gonzalez Shut Down Steven Lenhart
Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE
One of the most important matchups of the game was that of Los Angeles defender Omar Gonzalez and San Jose forward Steven Lenhart. Not only was the pairing crucial to the outcome of the game, it was also one that many fans wanted to see unfold as the game went on. Both players have already expressed hatred for one another.
Steven Lenhart's notorious physical play could not break down Gonzalez and it was quite apparent that he became frustrated once he realized that Gonzalez wouldn't bite on any of his antics.
Omar did make a reckless challenge (high elbow) on Lenhart and received a yellow card. Knowing that Gonzalez was one yellow away from being sent off, Lenhart decided to start an alteraction, hoping that Gonzalez would retaliate and get his second yellow of the game.
Omar stood his ground and it was Lenhart that ended up getting booked for a yellow.
Throughout the match, Lenhart barely got any chances at goal and was pretty much ineffective for the Earthquakes.
Unfortunate Injuries for the Earthquakes
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The anchor of San Jose's defense, Victor Bernardez, was one of the most important players of the series. Not only did he score from the free kick in the first leg, he also shut down the Galaxy's offense with his physicality.
In the second leg of the series, he did not look like himself. He was quickly given a yellow card after a bad foul and eventually had to be substituted early in the game because of an injury.
Ike Opara was his replacement, and that was the move that ended the season for the "Quakes." All three of the Galaxy's goals came after the substitution, and Opara's poor performance was the main contributor to L.A.'s offensive success.
San Jose forward, Alan Gordon, was also limited by injury. He came on as a sub and ended up scoring the Earthquakes' only goal of the game, but it was apparent that his injury really affected him.
One can only wonder what a healthy Gordon could have done to the Galaxy in both legs of the seriesand if San Jose's exit could have been avoided if Bernardez hadn't gone down.
Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan (and Don't Forget Mike Magee)
Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE
Robbie Keane showed us why he was named the team's MVP for the season. After having a great game in the first leg, but failing to score, Keane came back with a vengeance when it counted and scored two goals.
Landon Donovan was huge for Los Angeles after a disappointing first leg. He assisted Keane on his second goal and was one of the Galaxy's most dangerous players throughout the night.
He recorded another assist after Mike Magee scored his second goal of the playoffs.
Many people are quick to forget about Magee, but the fact of the matter is that he's one of the most clutch players of Los Angeles.
He scored the equalizer in the Galaxy's knockout round match against Vancouver Whitecaps FC. And then in this game, his goal would eventually help L.A. avoid extra time, as the series ended 3-2.
Magee was also a key player in last year's playoff run for Los Angeles. He was tied for first in postseason goals with a total of three.
Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE
The Galaxy never gave up even as they were down 1-0 after the first leg of the series. Despite never beating the Earthquakes this season, L.A. did what they needed to do on the road.
With their playoff experience, the Galaxy knew that being down 1-0 wasn't too bad and that they just needed to get a win to stay alive.
The Earthquakes, on the other hand, had little experience in this kind of situation. They were unable to hold their lead, and even though Chris Wondolowski is one of MLS' greatest scorers, he looked frustrated and lost the entire game.
The "magic" that the Earthquakes had throughout the season couldn't save them. They did make a final push and cut L.A.'s aggregate goal lead to one, but it was too little too late.
The "Quakes" shouldn't have relied so much on parking the bus and hoping that their late-game magic would get them out of a hole if the Galaxy managed to score.
The scoreline doesn't even tell the whole story. The game could easily have been 5-1 or 6-1. The Galaxy had many easy chances to score on counters, but Christian Wilhelmsson just couldn't finish those chances.
All in all, the Galaxy showed us why they are one of the best and most veteran teams in MLS. They came back from being down and put on a clinic on how to do so.
They now have to face Seattle Sounders FC on Sunday in the Western Conference Finals. The game will be at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA. It will be televised on ESPN at 6:00 PM PST.