Given their current state of affairs, with respect to its schedule and its personnel issues, The Home Depot Center was just about the last place the San Jose Earthquakes wanted to visit in order to right their frame of mind.
The Earthquakes game defensive effort was nullified late on as the third goal of the season from Peter Vagenas, a 77th-minute header, trumped Ronald Cerritos' 69th-minute goal and proved decisive in the 2-1 victory for the 10-man Los Angeles Galaxy.
The Galaxy, which led 1-0 before playing a man down the final 27 minutes (plus four minutes of stoppage), have earned the maximum 15 points out of five home matches this season after winning the opening California Clásico of 2005 against their northern nemesis. L.A. pulled into a tie for the Western Conference lead with FC Dallas (who on Sunday play Chivas USA at The Home Depot Center).
Ryan Cochrane made his second start of the season in taking over for Dayak in central defense. Earthquakes coach Dominic Kinnear handed Ian Russell and former Galaxy sparkplug Alejandro Moreno their first starts of the 2005 campaign, for Mullan and Ching, respectively.
The Quakes' decimated lineup left so few ex-teammates of Galaxy sensation Donovan that there was no tension on the pitch from that regard and the intensity level between the sides was considerably tamer than that which has become expected of the California Clásico.
Undermanned San Jose, expectedly, assumed a complete defensive posture, typically compressing eight behind the ball most of the opening half. While the tactic stalled the Galaxy offense for almost the first 35 minutes, the Quakes exhibited no synchronization in their passing and had one first-half shot, but nothing that reached the frame of goal.
Apart from a Kirovski header that trickled a couple yards wide of Pat Onstad's net and Landon Donovan's first shot in his first appearance against his former team -- an eight-yard header directed right at Onstad from Guillermo Ramirez's looping, left-sided cross -- in the opening nine minutes, there was little in the opening exchanges.
Ghosts of the Galaxy's poor finishing from last weekend's loss at Real Salt Lake appeared in the 38th minute as Onstad rightly charged outside the top of the penalty area to slide and clear Paulo Nagamura's through ball for Donovan up the center forward channel. But the clearance caromed straight to Cobi Jones, who shanked his first touch from 30 yards out well wide and high of the empty goal.
The golden opportunity served as the warning to the opening goal a minute later. Donovan pounced on midfielder Danny O'Rourke's attempted back pass just inside his own half, streaked 30 yards ahead before cutting a pass to Vagenas atop the area. Vagenas laid off for Kirovski, who took a touch to settle before firing a solid 25-yard shot inside the right goalpost, beating Onstad on a bounce.
The second half began as slowly as the first, with Kinnear taking O'Rourke off at halftime in favor of a defender, Chris Aloisi, who slotted into the right back position and moved Ricardo Clark centrally, just atop the rearguard.
But things suddenly changed when Galaxy centerback Ugo Ihemelu was booked with his second caution five minutes later for taking out Brad Davis' legs on a surge forward down the left flank.
Suddenly up a man, the Earthquakes needed only six minutes to steal an equalizer, the Quakes' only real chance of the match against the run of play.
In the 69th minute, substitution Mark Chung, acquired from Colorado Thursday, received a ball down the right from Dwayne De Rosario, turned defender Todd Dunivant near the edge of the area to put in a one-bounce center behind the Galaxy defense, where Cerritos slid to first-touch home (56k | 384k) with his right foot inside the six-yard box.
But there was one more quality chance to be finished in this affair, and it deservedly fell to the Galaxy in the 77th minute. Ednaldo da Conceicao, who came on literally seconds before, chased down an errant San Jose header near the left end line, waited and curled a cross for Vagenas, who streaked into the area and powered a header from the penalty spot into the top of the goal past the diving Onstad.
The match frantically opened up with the Earthquakes surging forward in waves and Donovan's first goal against his old colors was wiped out in the opening seconds of stoppage time as he was called offside. Hoping to get any sniff of the goal in transition, a half-chance in stoppage time beckoned, but an off-balance Cerritos rolled a weak shot right into Hartman's hands for the Quakes last stand.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Peter Vagenas (Los Angeles Galaxy)
Damian Secore is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.
San Jose Earthquakes (2-1-4) vs. Los Angeles Galaxy (4-2-0)
May 21, 2005 -- The Home Depot Center
LA -- Jovan Kirovski 3 (Peter Vagenas 1, Landon Donovan 4) 39
SJ -- Ronald Cerritos 4 (Mark Chung 1, Dwayne De Rosario 3) 69
LA -- Peter Vagenas 3 (Ednaldo da Conceicao 1) 77
San Jose Earthquakes -- Pat Onstad, Ricardo Clark, Ryan Cochrane, Eddie Robinson, Wade Barrett, Ian Russell (Mark Chung 61), Dwayne De Rosario, Danny O'Rourke (Chris Aloisi 46), Brad Davis (Wes Hart 78), Alejandro Moreno, Ronald Cerritos.
Substitutes Not Used: Danny Califf, Jon Conway.
TOTAL SHOTS: 8 (Ronald Cerritos 2, Mark Chung 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 2 (Ronald Cerritos 2); FOULS: 19 (Ryan Cochrane 3, Dwayne De Rosario 3); OFFSIDES: 5 (Ronald Cerritos 4); CORNER KICKS: 1 (Wade Barrett 1); SAVES: 2 (Pat Onstad 2)
Los Angeles Galaxy -- Kevin Hartman, Chris Albright, Ugo Ihemelu, Tyrone Marshall, Todd Dunivant, Cobi Jones (Pablo Chinchilla 80), Paulo Nagamura, Peter Vagenas, Guillermo Ramirez (Ednaldo da Conceicao 77), Jovan Kirovski (Michael Umana 66), Landon Donovan.
Substitutes Not Used: Paul Broome, Mubarike Chisoni, Steve Cronin, Herculez Gomez, Ned Grabavoy, Joseph Ngwenya.
TOTAL SHOTS: 11 (Jovan Kirovski 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 4 (4 tied with 1); FOULS: 15 (Ugo Ihemelu 3, Peter Vagenas 3); OFFSIDES: 2 (Landon Donovan 1, Tyrone Marshall 1); CORNER KICKS: 2 (Landon Donovan 1, Peter Vagenas 1); SAVES: 1 (Kevin Hartman 1)
SJ -- Danny O'Rourke (caution; Pushing, Holding) 20
LA -- Paulo Nagamura (caution; Reckless Foul) 22
SJ -- Ryan Cochrane (caution; Pushing, Holding) 28
LA -- Ugo Ihemelu (caution; Reckless Foul) 30
SJ -- Chris Aloisi (caution; Reckless Foul) 46
LA -- Ugo Ihemelu (caution; Reckless Foul) 63
LA -- Ugo Ihemelu (ejection; Second Caution) 63
Referee: Kevin Terry
Referee's Assistants: -Chris Strickland; Fabio Tovar
4th Official: Jair Marrufo
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.