CARSON, Calif. – Yes, the LA Galaxy were disappointed after giving up a stoppage-time strike to Víctor Bernárdez on Sunday night and going down, 1-0, halfway through their Western Conference Semifinal series with San Jose.
They don't think it altered a thing, though.
The Galaxy head north needing a victory in Wednesday night's second leg (11 pm ET, ESPN2, TSN2/RDS2 in Canada, live chat on MLSsoccer.com) to keep alive their MLS Cup title defense and advance to a showdown with Real Salt Lake or Seattle, but that's what they figured they'd need anyway.
“The reality didn't change for us,” captain Landon Donovan said following Tuesday's training session at the Home Depot Center, where LA dropped Sunday's opener on Bernárdez's 94th-minute free kick. “We still had to go to San Jose and win the game, if it's 0-0 or we're down, 1-0. Now if we win the game, all it gets us is extra time. If we win the game by a few goals, it can get us advancement.
“Nothing changes. Would we like to be 0-0? Sure. But maybe this will help us. Maybe being down a goal will create some urgency, and we’ve got to really go attack and try to get it.”
LA's plan is to force the attack, as they did while creating plenty of second chances in the first leg, but they need to be sharper. They sent in plenty of crosses and found access to the Earthquakes' box, but turning those into legitimate chances proved difficult.
Credit San Jose's defense, too: The Quakes sat deeper than they usually do, providing little space for the Galaxy to exploit – similar to Vancouver's tactics in last week's Knockout Round game, a difficult battle that LA finally pulled out. The Galaxy might see more of the same.
“They kept the same shape, if you like, but the two [central] midfielders [Rafael Baca and Sam Cronin] were not pushing forward as much as they would do,” noted forward Robbie Keane. “They were just siting in front of the back four, so they were probably watching the Vancouver game. I'm sure that will still be the case. They probably want six players back at all times, and let the four forwards, if you like, try to cause us a bit of mayhem.”
LA have no doubt in their ability to attack, but they led the Earthquakes in three of four meetings this season and lost three of the four, twice in stoppage time.
“It takes a lot of experience to know how to play in a game like this,” Donovan said. “And we're fortunate that we have a lot of experience. You don't throw everything at them early. You be smart about how you try to score a goal, and the reality is a goal takes a couple of seconds to score, so if it comes in the first minute or 30th or 60th or 93rd, it doesn't really matter.
“But we've got to be smart. Obviously, it's important not to concede a goal, because that would put is really behind the eight ball.”