Los Angeles Soccer: Ramiro Corrales
The wildest and weirdest of California Clasicos unfolded just as the Galaxy hoped, at least after an early hiccup, and exactly as the San Jose Earthquakes might have expected -- and desired.
Three goals in 11 minutes, two of them caused by Jason Hernandez errors, gave L.A. a two-goal edge just before halftime, and the way the Galaxy have been playing lately, that ought to be enough against nearly anyone in Major League Soccer.
But this Earthquakes side increasingly has the look of destiny about it, and given what's come before, its comeback for a 4-3 triumph Saturday night at sold-out Stanford Stadium was persuasive.
Victor Bernardez blasted home a feed from a corner kick near the end of the first half, Sam Cronin finished a spectacular sequence to start the second half, and MLS scoring leader Chris Wondolowski's backheel from a corner kick in the 61st minute delivered San Jose its seventh comeback victory of the year.
It spoiled the Galaxy's best 10 minutes or so of the season and restored the Quakes' spot atop MLS's Supporters' Shield standings, which had been taken by D.C. United with a victory earlier in the day.
It was an absorbing match, probably the best in the league this season, marked by end-to-end action, huge shifts in momentum, sudden chances enhanced by a tight field, goals both brilliant and unfortunate, tremendous atmosphere (some 50,391 on hand), and a end-of-game meltdown by David Beckham, whose nightmare week closed with a one-game suspension certain and additional games likely to be added.
“It was enjoyable to be part of, for the most part,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan told media afterward. “I thought the crowd was great, the energy was great, and it's just 20 some-off people in here [in L.A.'s locker room] who aren't happy. ... It's a game we should have won.”
Coach Bruce Arena agreed with the last part.
“It was a sloppy game, a lot of mishaps,” he said. “Kind of what we expected on a tight, short field. ... We did a poor job [defensively] today. Our defense on set pieces wasn't good, and it cost us the game.
“We have no one to blame. We should not lose that game.”
Chris Trotman/Getty Image
Bobby Convey's two goals helped lead San Jose to an upset of New York.
A look at Thursday's MLS postseason action:
IN BRIEF: Bobby Convey scores twice and sets up MVP finalist Chris Wondolowski's decisive header, and San Jose -- the lowest seeded team in the tournament -- pulls out a 3-2 aggregate stunner over Eastern Conference regular-season champion New York to reach the Eastern title game. The Earthquakes, just one win from their first MLS Cup final appearance since their 2008 restoration, score goals five minutes apart for the 3-1 second-leg victory, with Convey providing a would-be winner in the 76th minute and Wondolowski the actual winner in the 81st.
BEST PLAYER: Convey, a one-time teen phenom who was part of the 2006 U.S. World Cup team, was sensational on the left flank, in midfield for the first half and as left back after Ramiro Corrales departed just before halftime with a hamstring injury. Convey, allowed alone into the Red Bulls box by New York midfielder Rafa Marquez, side-footed San Jose to a sixth-minute lead after Ryan Johnson's cross wasn't adequately dealt with, turned Tim Ream at the top of the box to blast home Arturo Alvarez's feed for a 2-0 (and 2-1 aggregate) lead, then played a pefect cross for Wondolowski to nod home. His forays forward terrorized New York all night and enabled the Quakes, although outplayed much of the game, to maintain control from start to finish.