Having positioned itself at the edge of the Major League Soccer precipice, the Los Angeles Galaxy can either step backward onto firmer ground today or plunge out of sight.
It's now-or-be-ousted time at the Rose Bowl as the Galaxy takes on the San Jose Clash in a 4:30 p.m. game it must win to stay alive in the MLS playoffs.
Coach Lothar Osiander's team trails, one game to none, in the best-of-three Western Conference semifinal series, having been beaten, 1-0, by the Clash at San Jose on Thursday night.
Ironically, it was three people with Southern California connections who upset the Galaxy.
San Jose Coach Laurie Calloway, who used to play for and coach the California Surf in North American Soccer League days, designed the play that led to the winning goal.
U.S. national team striker Eric Wynalda, of Westlake Village and San Diego State, got the assist on a perfectly taken corner kick, and defender Tayte Ianni of Lodi, who played on UCLA'S 1990 NCAA championship team, scored the game-winner.
"Eric just laid it on the back post for me," Ianni said. "It was almost too good to be true. He bent the ball all the away around to the back post and I said to myself, 'All I've got to do is get everything I can behind it [on the header].' "
Calloway has cautioned his players not to be overconfident.
"We don't want to get caught up and carried away in the euphoria of beating them for the first time ever," he said. "We've got to regroup and talk about what we've got to do tactically in L.A., which will be a little different from what we did tonight."
San Jose is expected to adopt a more defensive posture, sitting back and allowing the Galaxy to do all the work while hoping to catch Los Angeles on counter-attacks.
A key to San Jose's win in Game 1 was John Doyle's excellent defensive play against Galaxy leading scorer Eduardo Hurtado, a fact pointed out by Osiander.
"Doyle had a real good game, I thought," Osiander said. "We couldn't break them down. We were a little slow in the first half. I thought we had a decent second half. Unfortunately, on that corner we sort of lost that wide player [Ianni] and got punished for it."