Green, gold and white confetti finally floated once more above the Rose Bowl Wednesday night as the Galaxy rediscovered the back of the net--again and again and again--in its Western Conference first-place showdown with the Colorado Rapids.
The confetti, reserved for Galaxy goal celebrations, littered the stands as defender Steve Jolley snapped the team's scoring drought in the fifth minute, followed by two goals by Cobi Jones and another by reserve forward Seth George as the Galaxy routed Colorado, 4-0, in front of a crowd of 10,098.
With the victory, the Galaxy reasserted itself as the top team in the conference, finally putting an end to the Rapids' steady erosion of its first-place lead. Consecutive scoreless defeats to Colorado and D.C. United had sliced the Galaxy's lead over the Rapids to a point before Wednesday's game.
But the four-goal outburst repositioned the Galaxy four points ahead of Colorado, 51-47, as the regular season enters its final 10 days. The Galaxy (19-11) has two games remaining, the Rapids (19-10) have three.
A lineup change intended to shore up the defense provided an unexpected elixir for the sputtering Galaxy offense. Jolley, inserted into the starting lineup at central defender, replacing Paul Caligiuri, ignited the Galaxy attack on a fifth-minute corner kick--freeing himself from Colorado's Jorge Dely Valdes to head a Greg Vanney corner just inside the near post.
Jolley, making only his fourth start in the Galaxy's last 13 games, said the goal left him "completely euphoric."
"I felt like I had to prove something tonight," Jolley said, "so I went out with all I've got.
"Fortunately enough, I got one early. That allowed me to settle into the game a little bit more, because I hadn't played in a long time."
The goal, Jolley's first since May 23, ended a 296-minute shutout streak by Colorado goalkeeper Ian Feuer.
It also served as a valuable icebreaker for the long-stymied Galaxy attackers.
In the 36th minute, the Galaxy made it 2-0 with some fancy work around the penalty area. Roy Myers set the play in motion with a soft chip just outside the box. Colorado defender Darren Sawatzky deflected the ball, sending it to Galaxy midfielder Mauricio Cienfuegos, who flicked it over his shoulder to an onrushing Jones, who tapped in for his seventh goal of the season.
Twenty minutes later, Jones scored again. A long feed by Galaxy midfielder Clint Mathis found Ezra Hendrickson alone and behind the defense on the right flank. Hendrickson then banged the ball on the ground in front of the goal mouth to a waiting Jones, who easily gave the Galaxy a 3-0 lead in the 56th minute.
George, a 75th-minute substitution for Carlos Hermosillo, took a pass from Marvin Quijano and fired in the Galaxy's fourth goal from 14 yards out in the 89th minute.
Jones called the victory "a very good game for the team overall because it sets a precedent against Colorado. If we meet them in the playoffs, the last thing in their minds will be a pretty drastic loss--and for us, a pretty great victory."
Jolley went even further.
"This could be a big transition for our team," Jolley said. "After having trouble all year with [Colorado] and going down the last two games to coming back like this, it shows a lot of heart. It shows, basically, that we have championship-caliber heart."
Galaxy Coach Sigi Schmid called his team's performance a much-needed departure from recent form.
"Obviously, we weren't happy with the way we played last weekend," Schmid said. "So we wanted to come back with a much better performance.
"I thought tonight, defensively, we played much better. That was one of the things we talked about in practice. We needed to do a better job of stepping up and pressing the man on the ball. We needed to defend more as a unit and cover for each other."