SAN JOSE - The San Jose Earthquakes exploded into the Major League Soccer Western Conference Final with a thrilling 5-2 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday night at Spartan Stadium on a Rodrigo Faria goal six minutes into overtime. Already entering the game trailing the home-and-home total goal series 2-0 following a two-goal loss in Los Angeles last Saturday, the Quakes found themselves facing a 4-0 aggregate goal deficit after the Galaxy scored twice in the first 13 minutes on Sunday.
The Earthquakes stormed back, scoring five straight goals, including the series-tying header in the final minute of regulation by Chris Roner before Faria provided the series-winner.
The Galaxy took a 1-0 lead and what seemed to be a commanding 3-0 aggregate goal lead in the series when Carlos Ruiz placed a header past San Jose goalkeeper Pat Onstad in the seventh minute. Ruiz got on the end of a Galaxy free kick from the left side, heading it down and to the left of a diving Onstad.
The Quakes fell into a deeper hole in the 13th minute when Alejandro Moreno broke free down the right sideline and sent a pass into the middle of the field to an on-rushing Peter Vagenas. Vagenas dribbled past the Quakes defense and into the box, where his shot beat Onstad to the right for a 2-0 lead and a 4-0 total goal lead in the series.
The Quakes got on the board in the 21st minute when Jeff Agoos buried a free kick from 20 yards in front of the Los Angeles goal. Following a Tyrone Marshall foul on Landon Donovan, Ronnie Ekelund tapped the ball forward to Agoos, who curled the ball around the Galaxy wall and into the upper left corner of the goal to cut the L.A. lead to 2-1.
Just two minutes later the Earthquakes nearly evened the match when Manny Lagos ran onto a ball that was popped over the Los Angeles defense by Donovan. Lagos got to the ball at the six-yard box and slid to make contact with it, but Kevin Hartman was able to make an incredible save, knocking the ball free with his foot.
The Quakes tied the game and drew to 4-2 on aggregate goals in the series in the 35th minute on a goal by Donovan. Donovan deflected a Galaxy free kick at midfield and Mulrooney picked up the loose ball and sent it over the defense. Jamil Walker was able to get to the ball first and slipped a pass forward to a sprinting Donovan before being taken down by Hartman, the last Galaxy defender. Donovan was able to reach the ball and send a shot into the open net to tie the game, 2-2.
The Quakes seized a 3-2 lead in the game and drew within 4-3 in the series on a powerful header by Walker in the 50th minute. Vagenas fouled Mulrooney at the right corner of the Galaxy penalty box, setting up a free kick. Mulrooney took a quick free kick, launching the ball into the middle of the L.A. six-yard box, where Walker elevated over the defense and headed the ball down and to the left of Hartman.
Onstad made two amazing saves in the 58th minute following a cross into the Quakes penalty box off a free kick by Hong Myung-Bo. Ruiz headed the ball toward the net, but Onstad dove to his left to block the ball. The rebound went to the Galaxy's Danny Califf right in front of the net, but while Onstad was still on the ground he was able to knock the shot away.
Needing just one goal to even the total goal series, the Earthquakes continued to press forward and attack Los Angeles. San Jose was rewarded in the final minute of regulation when substitute Chris Roner, who had just entered the game a minute before, rose above the Galaxy defense in the six yard box and headed a perfect Richard Mulrooney cross from the right side down and into the goal. The goal put the Quakes ahead 4-2 in the game and evened the series on total goals, forcing overtime and sending the raucous crowd at Spartan Stadium into a frenzy.
The Quakes began the 30-minute golden goal overtime period effectively playing down a man, as captain Jeff Agoos could barely run as he suffered from back spasms.
Faria provided the series-winning goal just six minutes into the overtime period when substitute Ian Russell passed off to Donovan at midfield. Donovan carried the ball into the Galaxy end of the field before sending a perfect pass to an on-rushing Faria on the right side of the L.A. penalty area. Faria controlled the ball, and buried a shot on the ground to the far post past a diving Hartman.
The Earthquakes now host the Kansas City Wizards in the Western Conference Final on Saturday, Nov. 14 at 7:00 p.m. PT at Spartan Stadium.
Earthquakes head coach Frank Yallop, on game: "That was probably the most amazing game that I have ever been involved with and the best MLS game I have ever seen. To come back from 4-0 down is just mind boggling."
Earthquakes forward Rodrigo Faria, on game: "Since I got here I have been wanting to score and I have had opportunities, but I have been struggling. I have kept working hard, because I felt that something special was coming, and tonight it did."
Faria, on goal: "It was something special. I just can't describe the feeling. I came on just wanting to get the game-tying goal, and thank God that Chris [Roner] got that one. In overtime it looked like we were in trouble when Jeff [Agoos] went down, but as soon as I saw Ian [Russell] give the ball to Landon I made a run into the middle. I knew they were tired, and when I got the ball I just saw the far post open and knew I could get it past Kevin [Hartman]."
Landon Donovan, on crowd: "The crowd was phenomenal tonight. It was louder than I have ever heard, even louder than the World Cup games. I have never been a part of a game that exciting. I almost wish that I had bought a ticket for it and could watch it from the stands."
Jamil Walker, on goal: "The cross was right there for me. I just was able to get there and put my head on it. It was a perfect cross, and once we got the goals, we felt that we had the momentum."
Major League Soccer; MLS Cup Playoffs
San Jose Earthquakes 5, Los Angeles Galaxy 2
San Jose, Calif.; Spartan Stadium; Attendance: 14,145
SJ - GK Pat Onstad, D Craig Waibel (Chris Roner, 89th), D Troy Dayak, D Eddie Robinson, D Jeff Agoos, M Brian Mullan, M Ronnie Ekelund, M Richard Mulrooney, M Manny Lagos (Ian Russell, 77th), F Landon Donovan, F Jamil Walker (Rodrigo Faria, 75th)
LA - GK Kevin Hartman, D Danny Califf, D Hong Myung-Bo, D Tyrone Marshall, M Simon Elliott, M Peter Vagenas, M Arturo Torres (Mauricio Cienfuegos, 90th) M Cobi Jones, M Sasha Victorine (Chris Albright, 81st) F Alejandro Moreno, F Carlos Ruiz
Ruiz (Bo), LA, 7th; Vagenas (Moreno), LA, 13th; Agoos (Unassisted), SJ, 21st; Donovan (Walker, Mulrooney), SJ, 35th; Walker (Mulrooney), 50th; Roner (Mulrooney, Dayak), 90th; Faria (Donovan, Russell), 96th.
Marshall (Yellow), LA, 14th; Mulrooney (Yellow), SJ, 27th; Hartman (Yellow), LA, 36th; Mullan (Yellow), SJ, 51st.
SJ LA Shots 23 10 Shots on Goal 9 6 Saves 4 4 Fouls 15 16 Offside 2 3 Corner Kicks 6 2