CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy believe they played well enough to beat the San Jose Earthquakes in all four meetings this season, and all they managed was one draw. Now they have no choice but to win.
Sunday's night's defeat in the opener of the Western Conference Semifinal series with their California Clasico rivals followed form to some extent – this time LA didn't give away a lead – and the 1-0 decision, on Víctor Bernárdez's stoppage-time strike, left the defending MLS Cup champions 90 minutes from elimination.
“It's up to us to show some character,” forward Robbie Keane said. “We've done it before, and we can certainly do it again. We know we can score goals against anybody, so we know if we defend as a team and get our chances, I'm sure we'll certainly get a few chances and hopefully score.”
The Galaxy had scored plenty against the Quakes this season, staking two-goal leads in the first two regular-season meetings and a pair of advantages in the third showdown two weeks ago. San Jose rallied for wins in May and June and for a 2-2 tie in October.
They had fewer opportunities in Sunday's defensive battle but lacked prowess when they arrived. Keane hit the crossbar with the best chance, in the 86th minute.
“It was never a game you would think that we would lose, but it was kind of one fluke play, and we were a little unlucky,” Landon Donovan said. “We probably weren’t sharp enough in the offensive part of the field, but at worse we thought we’d go up there 0-0 and just have to get a goal. Now it looks like we’ve got to get two. But it’s not over. We’ve played well there twice this year, and there’s no reason why we can’t win there.”
David Beckham said LA's “mindset doesn't change, whether it was 0-0 or, obviously, the result that we got,” that they believed “we'd always have to go to San Jose to win the game,” and that “there’s no reason why we can’t go there and beat them. It’s going to be tough.”
“We know what we can do,” Marcelo Sarvas said. “We did it today. It can be a little bit better, but they did a good job on defense. ... We create some good chances, we had the ball a lot. We have to do the same. We know that we can, it’s just hard because to receive a goal in the last minutes is hard, but we have the power to go into the next game to change the situation.”
The key? A shutout. But that's just a start.
“First and foremost, we can’t concede,” Donovan said. “We’ve got to be smart with our defending, but we’re in a position now where we've got nothing to lose. So we’re going to go like we have always, we're going to go and try to win the game. There’s no reason why the guys in this room can’t go win a game in San Jose.”