The Los Angeles Galaxy made sure the sold-out crowd at The Home Depot Center had more to cheer about than the post-game Fourth of July fireworks show on Sunday night as they earned a 2-1 victory over their in-state rival San Jose Earthquakes.
The Galaxy fans also enjoyed the return of Carlos Ruiz, who played in just two matches in June but returned to the top of the MLS scoring leaders' list with both Galaxy goals. In just 10 games, Ruiz has a league-leading 18 points with his eight goals (also a league-high) and two assists.
The teams traded goals late in the first half, the first from Ruiz just before halftime answering a Dwayne De Rosario goal, before Ruiz hit for the winner just before the hour mark. The Earthquakes ended the fractious encounter -- referee Kevin Stott showed nine yellow cards to the two teams -- with 10 men after Brian Mullan received his second booking of the match.
After dismissing several Galaxy opportunities earlier in the match, the Earthquakes took a 1-0 lead in the 41st minute with a wicked counterattack. The play began with a 3-on-2 breakaway where De Rosario eventually blasted a shot from the right side, but was denied by Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman.
But Galaxy defender Chris Aloisi couldn't clear the ball, and after fighting to keep the play alive, Brian Ching finally corraled the loose ball before slipping a pass to the completely unmarked De Rosario on the left side who slipped in the go-ahead goal.
Andreas Herzog might have felt like he was at practice in the first half. The Austrian midfielder had seven corner kicks -- but the first six were for naught. San Jose goalkeeper Pat Onstad made four saves in the first half, including two in the 42nd and 43rd minute that stopped headers from Jovan Kirovski and Ruiz.
But the Guatemalan international finally made the chances pay off when he touched it past the end line in injury time on the Galaxy's 10th corner kick of the first half. Chris Albright headed Herzog's corner from the right toward the far post where Ruiz finally bundled the ball over the line from close range for his seventh goal of the season as Quakes 'keeper Pat Onstad fought desperately to keep it out.
The Galaxy brought in Kirovski to help take some of the pressure off Ruiz and the goal scored by Ruiz in the 55th minute perfectly illustrated what Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid had in mind. Midfielder Ned Grabavoy accepted a pass from Ricky Lewis and found space near the end line before sliding the ball back into the middle of the penalty area.
But instead of sending it to the streaking Kirovski, who had two San Jose defenders surrounding him, his pass trickled back to an open Ruiz, and he had no trouble poking the ball into the far-side corner for his second goal of the night.
San Jose had its chances, but the Galaxy defense kept finding ways to stop the Earthquakes. Landon Donovan might have had the best chance for an equalizer in the 86th minute when he had a good angle near the goal, but Hartman quickly moved to take it away. Aloisi then cleared the danger after Donovan's pass was deflected toward the middle of the penalty box.
Then Craig Waibel's shot in injury time looked destined to find the net but Lewis cleared it off the line for a terrific save.
Neither side backed down in a match that featured plenty of physical and rough play in a match littered with penalties, free kicks and yellow cards. Mullan received his marching orders for his second caution of the second half after exposing his cleats in a hard slide tackle on Ruiz, who was helped off the field but resumed play before Joseph Ngwenya took his place in the 88th minute.
Los Angeles will next take the field Saturday when the Colorado Rapids visit The Home Depot Center in a match to be televised live on Fox Sports World and Fox Sports en Espanol (10 p.m. ET). San Jose will also be in action Saturday when they take on the MetroStars (4 p.m., ESPN2).
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Carlos Ruiz
San Jose Earthquakes (4-4-5) vs. Los Angeles Galaxy (8-5-3)
July 04, 2004 -- The Home Depot Center
SJ -- Dwayne De Rosario 3 (Brian Ching 2) 41
LA -- Carlos Ruiz 7 (Chris Albright 6, Andreas Herzog 5) 46+
LA -- Carlos Ruiz 8 (Ned Grabavoy 3, Ricky Lewis 2) 55
San Jose Earthquakes -- Pat Onstad, Wes Hart (Ronnie Ekelund 72), Ryan Cochrane, Craig Waibel, Ramiro Corrales, Brian Mullan, Landon Donovan, Richard Mulrooney, Arturo Alvarez (Ian Russell 62), Dwayne De Rosario, Brian Ching.
Substitutes Not Used: Chris Brown, Jon Conway, Todd Dunivant.
TOTAL SHOTS: 18 (Dwayne De Rosario 5); SHOTS ON GOAL: 7 (Dwayne De Rosario 2); FOULS: 23 (Brian Mullan 6); OFFSIDES: 1 (Dwayne De Rosario 1); CORNER KICKS: 4 (Richard Mulrooney 4); SAVES: 6 (Pat Onstad 6)
Los Angeles Galaxy -- Kevin Hartman, Chris Albright, Tyrone Marshall, Ryan Suarez, Chris Aloisi, Cobi Jones, Andreas Herzog, Marcelo Saragosa (Ricky Lewis 46), Ned Grabavoy, Carlos Ruiz (Joseph Ngwenya 88), Jovan Kirovski (Alejandro Moreno 84).
Substitutes Not Used: Josh Gardner, Guillermo Gonzalez, Hong Myung-Bo, Dan Popik, Scot Thompson, Arturo Torres.
TOTAL SHOTS: 11 (Andreas Herzog 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 8 (Carlos Ruiz 3); FOULS: 23 (Ned Grabavoy 5); OFFSIDES: 5 (Carlos Ruiz 3); CORNER KICKS: 10 (Andreas Herzog 9); SAVES: 6 (Kevin Hartman 5)
LA -- Chris Aloisi (caution; Pushing, Holding) 2
LA -- Tyrone Marshall (caution; Persistent Infringement) 18
SJ -- Arturo Alvarez (caution; Professional Foul) 35
SJ -- Dwayne De Rosario (caution; Reckless Foul) 46+
SJ -- Landon Donovan (caution; Dissent) 46+
SJ -- Brian Mullan (caution; Reckless Foul) 48
SJ -- Wes Hart (caution; Reckless Foul) 70
LA -- Andreas Herzog (caution; Reckless Foul) 73
SJ -- Brian Mullan (ejection; Serious Foul Play) 83
Referee: Kevin Stott
Referee's Assistants: Steven Davidson; Emiliano Monje
4th Official: Baldomero Toledo
Time of Game: 1:58
All Statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.