SANTA CLARA – As the LA Galaxy players filed off the field on Buck Shaw Stadium, past a row of fences keeping the fans at bay, one San Jose Earthquakes supporter yelled, "Magee sucks." Mike Magee turned around, nodded his head toward the voice, and tapped the MLS Cup icon on his jersey twice.
The Earthquakes may have usurped the Supporters' Shield from the Galaxy, but after a 3-2 aggregate loss in the Western Conference semifinals, San Jose won't be taking the cup away this season.
"We have guys that are champions on this team and they know how to respond when things go against you,” Landon Donovan said.
One of those champions is Irish forward Robbie Keane, whose double in the first half helped the Galaxy rebound from a first-leg deficit and spin the momentum of the tie around. The first goal clinked off the upright on its way in, a cathartic finish for a player who has hit the post twice recently.
"I've hit the post and the crossbar in the last few weeks," Keane said. "Lucky enough for me tonight it hit the post and went in."
Keane's double took him to 18 goals this season, all but three of which have come since June 23.
"Robbie, since he's come back from the European Championships, he's been the best player in the league," Bruce Arena said. "He's bought into MLS, he likes LA, he's a great leader on our team and when the whistle blows he's ready to play."
The Irish captain helped lead a surge for the Galaxy after a stumbling start. Los Angeles won only one of its first six games of the season in all competitions.
"We've been the best team in this league since July," Arena said. "I'm happy nobody's noticed that."
Of course San Jose was the best team overall. The 'Quakes scored a league-leading 72 goals on the way to the Supporters' Shield, nabbing the trophy from the Galaxy. Donovan, a former Earthquake, and Arena made sure to highlight San Jose's positive season.
“It wouldn't be right if I didn't just take a minute to congratulate San Jose on their year," Arena said. "They're really the champions of the league. When you go through the entire season – even though I'm not a great believer in the way they have the Supporters' Shield – but they earned it and they're champions in the league. Now we're still participating in another competition, the MLS Cup.”
In that cup, the Galaxy advance to the Western Conference final, where they will play either Real Salt Lake or the Seattle Sounders, in a home-and-away series. The winner of that matchup gets one last game: the MLS Cup final.
"We don't think we're done yet," Donovan said. "We think we have three more games."
So, despite San Jose's three wins and one draw in the four games against LA this year, the southern neighbor advances.
"I think we have a damn good team, arguably the best team in the league, and we have a chance to prove it," Arena said.
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