The Los Angeles Galaxy's horrendous road trip ended in a fitting way as the club scored twice on itself midway through the second half en route to a 3-0 defeat by the San Jose Earthquakes at Spartan Stadium on Saturday.
The loss spoiled Landon Donovan's much-anticipated return to San Jose, where he led the Earthquakes for the previous four seasons and won two MLS Cups along the way. Donovan was not a factor but nevertheless was booed mightily every time he touched the ball, especially when he walked up to take corner kicks.
The loss tightened the race in the Western Conference, where the Galaxy are just three points clear of San Jose, who have played one fewer match than their L.A. counterparts.
Before the match even started, the Galaxy were dealt a blow. Galaxy skipper Peter Vagenas pulled a groin muscle during warmups and did not start. Instead, Naldo da Conceicao started in Vagenas' place.
Early on, the Galaxy seemed to have difficulties with Spartan Stadium's narrow pitch. Front-runners Naldo and Donovan did not get quality passes from Jovan Kirovski, Cobi Jones and Guillermo "Pando" Ramirez simply because there was too much traffic.
San Jose's Brad Davis nearly broke through in the 18th minute. Davis beat the Galaxy's offside trap and ran into the penalty area unmarked. Galaxy 'keeper Kevin Hartman ran out to meet him just as the ball went out of his reach. Hartman dived and Davis fell over him as the ball rolled harmlessly out of bounds. But referee Jair Marrufo booked Davis for diving.
Jones was booked in the 25th minute after flattening Davis 30 yards from goal. After the teams exchanged long-ball clearances, San Jose's Ronald Cerritos broke free down the left side but was whistled offside.
Hartman kept the Earthquakes off the scoreboard in the 34th minute. Mark Chung found space in the corner of the box and ripped a shot on goal but Hartman dived to his left and deflected the shot out of bounds.
San Jose finally broke through in the 37th minute. Davis sent Cerritos a perfect through ball down the right flank. Cerritos ran unmarked into the penalty area and sent a cross in front of goal. Moreno slid in and tapped the shot into the corner of the goal ahead of Galaxy defender Tyrone Marshall.
In the Galaxy's road trip the club fell behind in the first half in three of their four matches. The first two, at Colorado and at Dallas, the games each ended 1-0. By halftime, San Jose had outshot the Galaxy 6-1. The Galaxy's lone shot came from Marshall and it was not on goal.
San Jose had the first quality shot of the second half. Just six minutes in, Clark unleashed a 25-yard bomb that Hartman did well to push wide.
In the 53rd minute, the Galaxy had a pair of corner kicks that went nowhere. The first was headed clear by a San Jose defender but the ball just barely missed the far post. On the ensuring corner kick, San Jose cleared the ball.
One minute later, San Jose stopped five Galaxy shots in a bizarre 10-second span. On a corner kick, Kirovski was denied four times, Michael Umaña twice and Todd Dunivant once. Dunivant's shot, the last in the sequence, was finally cleared well out of the penalty area.
In the 58th minute, Alan Gordon came on for Jones. It was Gordon's first appearance of the season and gave the Galaxy in essence four strikers in Donovan, Gordon, Kirovski and Naldo. Kirovski, however, often played behind the other three.
The Galaxy shot themselves twice in the foot and handed San Jose two goals in the span of three minutes, essentially giving the match away during that time.
In the 65th minute, Cerritos broke in on goal and had Galaxy defenders Umaña and Ugo Ihemelu ahead of him. The ball appeared to deflect off of Umaña and past Hartman, who had come off his line and could not stop the ball from trickling into the goal.
Then, just three minutes later, Marshall tried to head a ball back to Hartman but the ball jumped off Marshall's head and well out of the Galaxy 'keeper's reach.
The Galaxy appeared shaken after scoring twice on their own goal and could not put any dangerous possession together after in the final 20 minutes.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Pat Onstad (San Jose Earthquakes)
Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.
Los Angeles Galaxy (7-5-3) vs. San Jose Earthquakes (5-3-6)
June 25, 2005 -- Spartan Stadium
SJ -- Alejandro Moreno 5 (Ronald Cerritos 5, Brad Davis 8) 37
SJ -- own goal (Michael Umana) 65
SJ -- own goal (Tyrone Marshall) 68
Los Angeles Galaxy -- Kevin Hartman, Ugo Ihemelu, Tyrone Marshall, Michael Umana, Todd Dunivant, Cobi Jones (Alan Gordon 58), Ednaldo da Conceicao, Paulo Nagamura, Guillermo Ramirez, Landon Donovan, Jovan Kirovski.
Substitutes Not Used: Steve Cronin, Herculez Gomez, Ned Grabavoy, Troy Roberts.
TOTAL SHOTS: 9 (Jovan Kirovski 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 5 (Jovan Kirovski 3); FOULS: 15 (Paulo Nagamura 4); OFFSIDES: 3 (Ednaldo da Conceicao 2); CORNER KICKS: 7 (Landon Donovan 7); SAVES: 3 (Kevin Hartman 3)
San Jose Earthquakes -- Pat Onstad, Kelly Gray, Danny Califf, Eddie Robinson (Ryan Cochrane 86), Wade Barrett, Mark Chung, Ricardo Clark, Dwayne De Rosario, Brad Davis (Ian Russell 79), Ronald Cerritos (Brian Ching 66), Alejandro Moreno.
Substitutes Not Used: Chris Aloisi, Jon Conway, Wes Hart, Brian Mullan, Julian Nash, Danny O'Rourke.
TOTAL SHOTS: 7 (Mark Chung 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 4 (4 tied with 1); FOULS: 15 (Mark Chung 3); OFFSIDES: 7 (Ronald Cerritos 4); CORNER KICKS: 7 (Ronald Cerritos 5); SAVES: 5 (Pat Onstad 5)
SJ -- Brad Davis (caution; Diving, Exaggeration) 18
LA -- Cobi Jones (caution; Dissent) 25
SJ -- Danny Califf (caution; Tackle from Behind) 69
LA -- Guillermo Ramirez (caution; Pushing, Holding) 76
SJ -- Ricardo Clark (caution; Pushing, Holding) 76
Referee: Jair Marrufo
Referee's Assistants: -George Gansner; Corey Rockwell
4th Official: Richard Heron
Time of Game: 1:52
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.