CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy's title defense moved on to the Western Conference Semifinals after a stirring comeback Thursday night against the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps.
Mike Magee's side volley following a corner kick and Landon Donovan's penalty kick four minutes later lifted the Galaxy to a 2-1 victory in an absorbing Knockout Round encounter at the Home Depot Center.
LA's reward is a two-legged series against Supporters' Shield winner San Jose. The Galaxy will host Sunday's opener, with the second game in the home-and-home series set for Nov. 7 in Santa Clara.
Vancouver went ahead after just 182 seconds through rookie Darren Mattocks' finish, and their bunker defense repeatedly thwarted LA's attack until the home side hit with two quick goals midway through the second half.
Mattocks struck in the fourth minute, and the Whitecaps kept eight, nine or 10 players behind the ball, leaving little space for the Galaxy to exploit despite nearly constant possession. Marcelo Sarvas' entrance in the 52nd minute, for right back Hector Jimenez, provided LA a boost going forward, and Martín Bonjour's struggles after coming on for Jay DeMerit immediately after Magee's goal proved costly for the Canadian side.
LA outshot Vancouver, 23-9, but put only seven on target, and Whitecaps goalkeeper Brad Knighton was superb all night, coming off his line for crosses and parrying sharp shots by Juninho, Robbie Keane and – with his best save – a David Beckham free kick headed inside the left post just before halftime.
The Galaxy, who had never lost to the Whitecaps in five previous meetings, were 21 minutes plus stoppage from elimination when Magee struck. Beckham played a short corner to Juninho, who found Magee sneaking alone into the box and set him up perfectly for the side volley, which gave Knighton no chance. The goal was Magee's fourth in his last five playoff games, dating back to last year.
Bonjour came on immediately after and was quickly beaten by Robbie Keane at the top of the LA box, but Knighton got low to make the save. The Argentine had no such luck a minute later, when Juninho played a short through ball into the box for Donovan, who was trundled over by Bonjour.
Donovan, who thought he'd won a penalty when knocked over by Andy O'Brien near the end of the first half, gave Knighton no chance on his penalty kick.
Mattocks scored at the start, first-timing Watson's diagonal feed across the goalmouth and inside the right post. Watson beat Jimenez – making his MLS debut at right back in place of the injured Sean Franklin – raced into the box and cut the ball back to Mattocks, splitting Juninho and Omar Gonzalez.
Though LA eventually overcame the early goal, they will have to make a quick turnaround while considering the health of Franklin and Juninho – held out with left and right leg injuries, respectively, despite not being listed on LA's injury report – as well as Juninho, who exited the game late on with an apparent left knee injury.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Mike Magee||The 2011 playoff hero is back for more. Scored a wonderful volley to equalize and put in a consistent performance over the 90 minutes|
|2||Brad Knighton||Confident and spry throughout the game, made a number of excellent saves and could do little on either of LA's goals|
|3||Robbie Keane||Gave Vancouver's defense plenty to think about with his impeccable movement and hunger to score, even if he didn't ultimately find the net|