There are so many iconic moments from California Clasicos past:
San Jose's five-goal rally in Major League Soccer's 2003 playoffs
Landon Donovan's bitter 2005 return to Spartan Stadium
The Galaxy's 3-1 road triumph over the best-in-the-league Quakes en route to the 2005 MLS Cup title
Alan Gordon's stoppage-time header to complete a three-goal comeback
That last one, just 5½ weeks ago at Home Depot Center, still bothers the Galaxy, who were 15 minutes plus stoppage from ending a nightmarish five-game winless streak before Steven Lenhart, Khari Stephenson and Gordon delivered a most improbable 3-2 triumph.
Only it wasn't so improbable. San Jose (10-3-3), the best team in MLS record-wise, keeps pulling out late victories. It has won seven of its last 10 league games with a goal in the 84th minute or later, scored four stoppage-time winners, rallied from behind in six victories (all competitions) and gone 4-2-3 after conceding the first goal.
MLS teams have rallied from a halftime deficit to win six times this season -- the Earthquakes twice. They lead MLS with 11 goals in last 15 minutes and 20 in the last half-hour.
That's what the Galaxy (6-8-2), finally finding its stride after three horrid months (with that unbeaten streak, which reached eight games), is facing when in Saturday night's rematch before a sellout crowd of more than 50,000 at Stanford Stadium.
“That's the trademark of their team,” said L.A. defender Todd Dunivant. “Just being the hungrier team, getting on the end of things.”
It happened May 23 in Carson. Hector Jimenez, making his first start of the season, scored a fine goal just three minutes in, and L.A. dictated play for the first hour. Jimenez was red-carded about 15 minutes into the second half, but Mike Magee doubled the advantage in the 73rd minute.
“We felt we played one of the best first halves we'd played up to that point,” Dunivant said. “We got out to a good lead, got a red card but still got another goal on top of it, so we were in good shape and let it slip.”
Lenhart headed home a corner kick in the 75th minute, Stephenson converted a penalty kick after a David Beckham hand ball seven minutes later, and Gordon struck on a ball from the right flank four minutes into stoppage.
“The guys remember that game. Unfortunately,” said Galaxy captain Landon Donovan, who missed it while with the U.S. national team in Florida. “There were a lot of good things in that game. That was, I think the best we had played probably all year. ... There was some positives, but to give ip the last goals really hurt. It's in the back of [our] minds.”
There's not a whole lot in common between today's Galaxy and the team a month ago. The three-week break for World Cup qualifiers energized the team, which in seven days jumped from the Western Conference cellar into fifth place, the cutoff for playoff berths, with a gritty win over Portland, a miraculous comeback at Real Salt Lake and a vibrant performance to dismantle Vancouver.
Donovan was MLS's Player of the Week, and Robbie Keane, fresh off Ireland's disappointing run at Euro 2012, gave perhaps his finest showing in an L.A. uniform in last weekend's triumph over the Whitecaps. The Galaxy is still five points from the team in front of them and 13 -- more than four wins -- off the Quakes' lead.
“We haven't shown [we're back to top form] in the standings, and that's something we look to rectify,” Dunivant said. “The last three games have been a good step in that direction. We have a long way to go to catch Salt Lake and San Jose and Seattle and Vancouver. We still have a ways to go.
“Playing so many conference games is going to help us, I think, in that way. I mean, if you win those games [against other Western teams], you're jumping a lot of points quickly.”
This time if they get a lead, they need to hold on.
“You can never relax” against a team like San Jose, Donovan said. “You have to make sure you play for 90 minutes, and that's what it's going to take. We'd love to be up in the game, we'd love to have a lead. If that does happen, we know it's not over and it's going to be a tough game. We know that.”
WORTH NOTING: Omar Gonzalez has returned to full training with the Galaxy and could be activated in July. ... The Galaxy leads the all-time series, 39-19-10 (4-1 in shootouts), and are 25-16-8 in regular-season league games with the Quakes. San Jose is 11-9-5 in MLS regular-season meetings at home and 3-1-2 at home since it returned to MLS in 2008, six of those games in Oakland. ... This will be the second-largest crowd the Galaxy has played before this season. Attendance was 60,860 in Montreal last month. All nine L.A. road games across three competitions have been sellouts; only three home games, one of them with a 7,500 crowd cap, have sold out. ... San Jose has played two games this season at Stanford, U.S. Open Cup victories over second-division Fort Lauderdale and Minnesota at 2,000-capacity Cagan Stadium, the school's soccer facility. ... Dunivant attended Stanford. “I've got a lot of friends and family still there and know a lot of people still in the athletic department. This will be the first time for me going back to the new stadium since they [rebuilt it in 2006], and it's right next to the soccer stadium. Too bad we can't play there.” At least 48,000 ticketholders will disagree with Dunivant on that last point.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
Head coach: Frank Yallop
Key players: F Chris Wondolowski, M Marvin Chavez, M Simon Dawkins, M Tressor Moreno, M Khari Stephenson, F Steven Lenhart, M Sam Cronin, D Ramiro Corrales, D Steven Beitashour.
Local guys: Lenhart (Yorba Linda/Azusa Pacific), M Rafael Baca (Lawndale/Loyola Marymount), F Cesar Diaz Pizarro (Chino Hills/UC Riverside), F/M Sam Garza (UC Santa Barbara), plus former Galaxy/Chivas USA forward Alan Gordon and former Chivas defender Jason Hernandez.
Update: The Quakes (10-3-3) climbed atop the Western Conference and Supporters' Shield standings with last weekend's 2-1 victory at Real Salt Lake (10-5-2), going a point ahead of the Utahns. Wondolowski has a league-best 13 goals (and 47 in 2½ seasons) after scoring back-to-back late winners in league play, but the last game was a loss: a 1-0 decision to Seattle in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals after a late plea for a penalty kick was ignored. Before that, the Quakes had won four in a row and lost just twice in 16 games since mid-March. They've got role players perfectly executing their assignments all over the field and possess a gritty, never-quit attitude -- “Goonies never say die,” from the 1985 film “The Goonies,” is their motto -- enhanced by some real skill, especially up front with “Wondo” and Chavez. Lenhart's bruising play can be game-changing, and Gordon has scored five goals off the bench, two of them winners, all off them in the 72nd minute or later.
Out: D Andrew Boyens (sports hernia), F Edson Buddle (right knee surgery), F Adam Cristman (concussion), D Omar Gonzalez (left ACL tear), M Dan Keat (right knee surgery), D Leonardo (right knee inflammation).
Questionable: M Kyle Nakazawa (back spasms), F Pat Noonan (right quad strain).
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
Out: M Simon Dawkins (left shoulder sprain), M Sam Garza (fractured rib), M Joey Gjertsen (right knee surgery), D Tim Ward (non-specific soft tissue injury).
Doubtful: DF Ike Opara (left hip flexor strain)
Stanford Stadium (Stanford, Calif.), 7 p.m.
Referee: Hilario Grajeda
TV: ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes
Radio: K-Talk (KTLK-AM/1150, English) and ESPN Deportes (KWKU-AM/1220, Spanish)