Confidence and grit marked another late late show from San Jose, this time in the playoffs versus the reigning champs.CARSON, Calif. – Frank Yallop's phone rang, interrupting his post-match conversation with the press in the basement of the Home Depot Center. The ringtone? "I'm sexy and I know it."
It's fair to say the San Jose Earthquakes have a bit of swagger.
The 'Quakes had beaten the LA Galaxy 1-0 minutes earlier to take a precious away lead in the Western Conference semifinal. The second leg will be at Buck Shaw Stadium on Wednesday.
During the regular season, these teams scored 16 goals over three meetings, with San Jose coming from behind each time to secure two wins and a draw. On Sunday the one goal did it, with Victor Bernardez scoring four minutes into stoppage time.
"We know that it doesn't matter if you score in the first minute or the 90th minute, that they all count the same," Chris Wondolowski said.
Or, in this case, the 94th minute. Bernardez's goal came on a 30-yard free kick that he crushed under the wall. The ball nicked off the jumping Omar Gonzalez and trickled under Josh Saunders. Neither Galaxy player looked great on the sequence. Coach Bruce Arena instead took issue with the foul that led to the free kick, when Simon Dawkins went down from a Marcelo Sarvas challenge.
"No foul," Arena said. "If that's a foul in this game then there's 100 fouls."
Yallop wanted to see a replay before he made a comment.
"If he gives it, he gives it," Yallop said. "Still, 30 yards from goal. It wasn't a penalty or around the edge. You've got to give credit to Victor with a good strike on target."
The manner of the goal was unlikely, but that it came surprised few. San Jose has scored 10 stoppage-time goals this season (including Bernardez's), six of them winners. The Supporters' Shield winner led the league in goals with 72, some 13 more than the next-best Galaxy.
"We've faced a lot of adversity all year being the unfashionable, fouling, ugly team, but 72 goals ain't bad for an ugly team, just so you know," Yallop said, perhaps a response to comments from Gonzalez after the teams' last regular season meeting, when he called the 'Quakes "a bunch of jokes."
The consistent comebacks and never-say-die attitude spawned the mantra "Goonies never say die," coined by Steven Lenhart after the May win over the Galaxy.
"Taglines are just taglines," Lenhart said. "But I think the preparation of the team and the commitment of the guys here is phenomenal. I think that's what we're feeding off of."
Several 'Quakes played dinged up when perhaps they would have sat out a regular season match, including the substitutes Chavez and Alan Gordon, who replaced Lenhart. Expect similar grit in the second leg.
"However they need me, I'm ready. I don't care what it is," Gordon said. "I'll limp through 90 minutes if I have to to get the win. I will play on my hands."
Of course, Los Angeles won't relax either. The reigning champion didn't take the 2011 MLS Cup without knowing how to grind out a playoff matchup. And the Galaxy have the firepower in attack. Had a Robbie Keane blast in the 85th minute gone a few inches lower instead of leaving a vibrating goal frame, it might have changed the storyline of the first leg.
"They're 1-0 down so they're going to throw everything at us," Yallop said.
So what's his gameplan going be come Wednesday? "Just pick a team and go for it."
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