Galaxy forward Mike Magee celebrates a goal against the New York Red Bulls… (Kelvin Kuo / US Presswire )
Over the last three seasons no Major League Soccer team has won more regular-season games than the Galaxy.
But over that same period few teams have been more disappointing in the postseason than the Galaxy, who last won a title six years and five coaches ago.
Now, however, things are setting up nicely for that streak to end.
With Mike Magee scoring in the first half and Landon Donovan adding a penalty-kick goal late in the second, the Galaxy defeated the New York Red Bulls, 2-1, at a sold-out Home Depot Center on Thursday, sweeping the two-leg playoff series and advancing to Sunday's Western Conference final at home against an injury-depleted Real Salt Lake team.
If they win that, they'll play in the MLS Cup final, which this year is being held on the Galaxy's home field, where the team has yet to lose in 22 matches this season.
In the Galaxy dressing room, however, no one's thinking beyond Friday morning's practice.
"We're not going to overlook anyone," Magee said. "We're not looking toward the MLS Cup. We believe if we take it one game at a time and don't let our guard down, then this will be the year."
The determined and physical Red Bulls weren't conceding anything Thursday. Although the Galaxy concluded the regular season with the league's best record, New York finished nearly as strongly over the final 10 matches, losing only twice. And the Red Bulls carried that momentum into the postseason, where they dominated for stretches -- especially in the second half -- in the first leg of the home-and-home series with the Galaxy.
They didn't score until the fourth minute of Thursday's game, however, when Luke Rodgers finally found the back of the net.
Midfielder Joel Lindpere set up the play by getting the ball to Thierry Henry, who deftly sent a through ball ahead. Rodgers, racing up the left wing, gathered it in, slipped behind Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez, and beat keeper Josh Saunders with a right-footed shot low to the far corner.
That made the score 1-0 New York, and tied the series, 1-1, on aggregate goals.
David Beckham got up off the turf to help the Galaxy get that lead back just before halftime. Beckham, who played an active and inspired game on both sides of the midfield stripe, collided with New York's Dane Richards going up for a header late in the half and appeared stunned before being helped from the field.
After being treated with what appeared to be smelling salts, he raced back onto the pitch and a couple of minutes later set up the Galaxy's first goal, threading a perfect corner from the left side to the edge of the goal area, where Magee drove a hard header past keeper Frank Rost in the 42nd minute.
It was Magee's second goal in as many matches.
Beckham was also instrumental in the Galaxy's second goal, drawing a vicious foul in the penalty area from Roy Miller. Donovan converted the penalty kick in the 75th minute for his first playoff goal since the 2009 conference championship.