An Edson Buddle hat trick powered the Los Angeles Galaxy to a 3-0 win against the San Jose Earthquakes, in front of a crowd of 39,872 at McAfee Coliseum.
With Landon Donovan (United States) and Carlos Ruiz (Guatemala) called away to national team duty, and Alan Gordon suspended after being sent off last week, LA's offense needed someone to step and carry the load. Enter Buddle, now the second leading scorer (after Donovan) in MLS with eight goals.
There were others who stepped up: Ante Jazic, getting his first start of the season, and Josh Tudela, who had all of 90 minutes of playing time previously this year, also added assists to help keep the Galaxy atop the MLS Western Conference.
It was a disappointing loss for San Jose, who came into the game having won two of their last three matches, and were playing in front of the second-largest home crowd in club history.
Like LA, San Jose also had to juggle their line up a bit, with Kei Kamara (Sierra Leone) and Ivan Guerrero (Honduras) away on national team duty. John Cunliffe got the start alongside Ryan Johnson at forward for the Earthquakes, while Adam Smarte made his MLS debut at right back.
It didn't take long for LA to get on the scoreboard. In the sixth minute, David Beckham served up a cross to Josh Tudela in front of the goal. Tudela headed the ball down to Edson Buddle at the top of the box, and Buddle slammed a volley past a diving Joe Cannon inside the left post for a 1-0 lead.
LA almost got another goal in the 18th minute as Buddle, out on the right wing, worked his way in along the goal line. Buddle slid a pass to Ely Allen inside the six-yard box. Allen's quick turning shot beat the goalkeeper but banged off the near post before being cleared away and came out the other side.
San Jose's best chance in the first half came in the 24th minute, when Ryan Johnson's diving header was saved by goalkeeper Steve Cronin.
In the second half, San Jose pressed for an equalizer, but couldn't find the net. In the 60th minute, Kelly Gray stole the ball and fired a shot from 25 yards out, but it sailed wide right.
The rest of the night belonged to LA. The Galaxy doubled their lead in the 63rd minute, when Allen flicked the ball into the left-wing corner for Ante Jazic. Jazic's line-drive cross found Buddle, who acrobatically headed it home from 10 yards out.
San Jose tried to answer in the 65th minute, as a through ball sprung Shea Salinas up the middle of the field, but his shot sailed wide right.
In the 68th minute, it was the Galaxy again working the left side with good results. Jazic played the ball to an overlapping Mike Randolph down the wing. Randolph's cross found Buddle, again about 10 yards in front of goal, and his leaping header finished his hat trick. It was the second hat trick of the season for Buddle, who earlier had netted three goals in a game against Dallas.
Buddle almost had a fourth goal in the 86th minute when he broke in alone on the goalkeeper, but he fired just wide of the far post.
Gray tried in vain to put the Earthquakes on the scoreboard with a turning shot from the top of the box in the 88th minute, but he couldn't get in on target.
The Galaxy have now won four out of their last five, and are atop the West with 20 points, heading into next weekend's home game against Columbus. San Jose remains on 10 points, in seventh place in the conference, with a midweek trip ahead to Real Salt Lake.
Pete Ratajczak is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.