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Drilling down on: Los Angeles Galaxy 3, San Jose 1

Nov 8, 2012, 1:49 AM EDT

Mike Magee, Landon Donovan

Where was this from the Galaxy over the last 10 days? Whoever stole all the hop and the pop from the Galaxy attack must have given it back.

Because the champs threw the whole kit and caboodle at the Earthquakes, shredding the Supporters Shield winner’s defense with three goals before the break.

From there, the Galaxy managed things well enough in the back to prevent yet another furious, signature Earthquakes’ rally.

So Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Robbie Keane and the rest move into the conference finals, while the San Jose Earthquakes become the latest in a long line of Supporters Shield winners to fall short of MLS Cup glory.

It was always possible, of course. But who saw a 3-1 win coming?

The Galaxy advance on a 3-2 aggregate.

Man of the Match:

Robbie Keane has been Major League Soccer’s top striker over the last two months.The Irish international had come agonizingly close to scoring over the weekend when the Galaxy put themselves in a series bind in that 1-0 loss at the Home Depot Center. Well, he finished the job Wednesday, driving forward aggressively and banging one off the inside of the post to light the fuse on the Galaxy scoring onslaught. Midway through the second half, he set up Christian Wilhelmsson beautifully.

Threesome of knowledge: What we learned

San Jose picked a bad time to have a bad night.

This is what the Galaxy did so well last year, ruthlessly exploiting the booboos and the weak links. So it was Wednesday, as the Earthquakes fell for the first time this year at Buck Shaw Stadium.

Steady central midfielder Sam Cronin picked a bad time to have a stinker of a match. Or, at least a stinker of a 30-minute period to open matters, as he and central partner Rafael Baca were no match for David Beckham and Juninho, who had the run of things in the center of the park.

Cronin wasn’t the only one. The league’s 27-goal scorer, Chris Wondolowski missed an absolute sitter from eight yards in the first half with goalkeeper Josh Saunders down on the turf, in a tangle with center back Omar Gonzalez. He put another close-range shot over the bar in the second half.

Donovan still has something to offer. A lot, in fact.

This is the guy talking about retiring? After wilting in a couple outings, the national team’s all-time scoring leader reminded us that there is plenty of soccer left in his 30-year-old legs.

Donovan set up two of those first-half goals, going aggressively forward with the ball and seizing the initiative in ways he wasn’t before.

He responded favorably to a tactical re-positioning. Rather than working alongside Keane as a second forward, Donovan was positioned out wide. Edson Buddle started as the second striker, permitting Donovan’s relocation to the flank, the position where he has spent the bulk of his league and international career.

Donovan seemed to enjoy being wider, with a little more space in which to dash about, better able to see the field and the runners around him. Later, as Buddle left, Donovan moved back alongside Keane and found different ways then to trouble the Earthquake defenders.

San Jose is not the same without Victor Bernardez.

There is a reason the Earthquakes big center back is about to be named MLS Defender of the Year – even if that’s nothing more than a prediction on my part. For now.

So when the commanding Honduran defender left injured, San Jose was in trouble. Replacement Ike Opara just doesn’t have focus and awareness. He fell asleep, for instance, on the second Galaxy goal, caught unaware when Keane crashed across with a strong diagonal run.

We saw the same early in the season when Bernardez missed some time due to injury. Of course, that wasn’t in an elimination series in November.

Packaged for take-away

  • Referee Kevin Stott got on top of this one early, which made for a better match, one with just a little less of the silly stuff.
  • L.A. rookie center back Tommy Meyer, with wildly varying levels of success this year, may have played his best match to date.
  • Meyer’s central partner, Gonzalez, was immense, too. He was an aerial beast, in command of almost every ball that dropped into the Galaxy defensive third.
  • Beckham collected a yellow card, so he’ll need to be careful in the conference final opener; if the former England captain is cautioned in the first leg, he’ll miss the back end of the home-and-away series.
  • Opara had a wonderful chance to score an 11th goal in stoppage time for the Earthquakes, but blasted his shot high.
  1. mkbryant3 - Nov 8, 2012 at 1:59 AM

    I agree with everything you say, except the final score. It was 1:3 for a 2:3 aggregate. Still, LA had a great game. Keane was clinical. Gonzalez was super solid. Donovan was wiley but still seems hurt at times, but still made a huge difference out there. Bernardez was a big hit for SJ. Not only did they lose his defensive presence, but more so his leadership. The Quakes just didn’t have it tonight and LA did. My top 3:

    1. Keane
    2. Gonzalez
    3. Donovan

    Still a great season for the Quakes and I’m proud of my team. It’s been a very fun season.

  2. mkbryant3 - Nov 8, 2012 at 2:00 AM

    Oh yeah, flippy celebrations are still so lame…especially after great goals.

  3. footballer4ever - Nov 8, 2012 at 8:22 AM

    I am in the east coast which meant the game started until 11:23pm. Therefore, i was not able to stay up to watch the entire game. I am surprised to see LAG beat SJE 3:1. I guess Don Garber might be pleased they don’t have to worry about SJE making the final anymore.

    By the way, we, the hardcore fans, must do within our powers to boost the ratings for these playoff games. I’ve watched all games on NBC/NBCSN/ESPN in one way or another. If i am not able to, i make sure to at least leave the tv on. Also, i’ve accessed the same game(s) via espn3/watchespn simultaneously. Every rsting point counts!

  4. sir1389 - Nov 8, 2012 at 10:35 AM

    I saw a more professional refereeing group that did not allow Quakes players to become WWE wrestlers in front of their home crowd. Deserved yellows to Bernarndez and Lenhart seemed to make a huge difference in the game. Previous games at Buck Shaw saw no such stand by a ref crew.

  5. manchestermiracle - Nov 8, 2012 at 12:10 PM

    Gotta admit I didn’t think the Galaxy had it in them. Congrats and keep it up.

  6. footballer4ever - Nov 8, 2012 at 6:15 PM

    @sir1389

    LoL, that’s a good point. SJE does get away with over the top defense ala WWE and realize they often get away with crime. It’s not a fluid, artistic, over-talented football club, but they do the best with whom they have.

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