The Earthquakes managed yet another late win, this time on blunders by Omar Gonzalez and Josh Saunders, to win 1-0 and take a lead back home for the second leg.
The San Jose Earthquakes still have their pixie dust. After a regular season full of late goals, amazing finishes and a Supporters' Shield, the Quakes proved that they could take that same magic into the postseason on Sunday evening. After 90 minutes of seemingly playing for a draw with the LA Galaxy at the Home Depot Center, a Victor Bernardez free kick took a deflection and squeezed under Josh Saunders to give San Jose a 1-0 win in the first leg of the Western Conference semifinals.
LA had the bulk of the positive play, but nobody would call them ambitious. They almost scored early on when David Beckham's free kick found Robbie Keane, whose header beat Jon Busch, but it went just wide of the post. Aside from that, the Galaxy had a lot of crosses to nobody in particular in between the two teams taking turns giving the ball away in the midfield.
The second half was a bit brighter, as LA pushed forward more and was able to carry the ball into the final third a bit more often, but more often than not their crosses couldn't find their target and they couldn't create anything through the middle. As the half went on they appeared to tire, having played just three days earlier, and the Earthquakes were happy to let them run around. For them, a draw was a positive result and they were always in a good spot to earn that the way the match was going.
Only once did it look like the Galaxy were really going to win it and it came off of a lovely leave by Landon Donovan. That set Robbie Keane up perfectly from 20 yards and he hit a great shot that beat Busch, but he couldn't beat the bar. His strike rattled the crossbar and it looked like San Jose was going to walk away with a nice draw.
The Quakes had one more bullet left in the chamber, though, as it feels lik they have all season. After a foul gave San Jose a free kick from 35 yards, Bernardez hit it hard right at the LA wall. Omar Gonzalez, seemingly unaware that all Bernardez does is hit the ball as hard as he can and without finesse, jumped. That created a hole in the wall that the ball squirted through, deflected off of Gonzalez's leg and towards goal. Saunders still got there in plenty of time to make the save, but he went over the ball and allowed it to cross the line as the Quakes pulled out another win in the dying moments.
If the LA legs were heavy in LA, they will only be heavier on Wednesday night in the second leg. That match gets underway at 11 p.m. ET in San Jose, where just a home draw will send the Quakes to the Western Conference final.