Their winning goal in the first leg may have been a bit of a gift. But the San Jose Earthquakes have absolutely no interest in returning the favor to the LA Galaxy.
“In the playoffs, I think everybody knows, it’s the details that matter,” Quakes goalkeeper Jon Busch told reporters ahead of Wednesday’s Western Conference Semifinal second leg (11 pm ET, ESPN2, live chat on MLSsoccer.com. “Everything gets a little bit tighter, so it’s that one or two little scenarios where a ball gets through a wall or different things like that. It’s just a reminder that for the 90-plus minutes, you have to be on top of everything.”
And the Galaxy were on top of everything in Sunday’s first leg at the Home Depot Center, until the 94th minute, when Víctor Bernárdez’s free kick hit Omar Gonzalez, who broke the wall, and the ensuing deflection squirted underneath Josh Saunders. That turn of events let the Quakes steal a narrow victory instead of a 0-0 draw, one which Chris Wondolowski said San Jose would have been “content” with.
That play was a reminder to the Earthquakes that any little split-second lapse in judgment can mean the difference between victory and defeat, especially in a tight playoff duel with the defending champions. Quakes head coach Frank Yallop says it’s imperative that his team doesn’t make any little mistakes to help the Galaxy overturn the 1-0 aggregate score line.
“Teams are going to score goals,” he told reporters, “but you don’t want to give them any extra ones.”
If LA are going to turn the tide on the Supporters’ Shield winners, they’re going to have to do it the old-fashioned way: by creating their own goals. And with a star-studded attack whose 59 total goals this season were second only to the Quakes, San Jose know the Galaxy are coming into Buck Shaw Stadium like a runaway freight train.
Robbie Keane, LA's leading scorer, is of particular concern to Yallop & Co., especially after ricocheting a sure goal off the crossbar in the 86th minute of the first leg. Landon Donovan was “quiet” in Yallop’s estimation, which suggests he’ll be active in the second leg. David Beckham’s lethal serve is obviously of concern. And they won’t overlook postseason hero Mike Magee, either.
“In most of the [first leg], we did a nice job of getting pressure on the ball and getting nice and tight to their players,” Yallop said. “But again, we’ve got to do it for another 90 minutes or whatever it takes, and it’s never easy.”
But if they do surrender a goal to LA, as they did seven times in three matches during the regular season, San Jose are adamant they’re not going to give one up cheaply the way the Galaxy did three days ago.
“It’s important that we pay attention to those little things,” said defender Jason Hernandez. “Those are the things that decide a match, that decide a playoff series. So we’re all going to make sure that we’re on the same page come [Wednesday].