The Galaxy let two-goal leads slip away against the Earthquakes twice this… (John Medina / Getty Images )
The Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes have met three times this season. In the first two games, the Galaxy let two-goal leads slip away and lost, and in the third match the Earthquakes rallied twice from deficits to earn a draw.
So Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena has adopted a simple strategy for Sunday's rematch at the Home Depot Center, the opening game of Major League Soccer's conference semifinals.
"Don't let them score if you're ahead. If you're behind, you better get a goal to get it even," he said Saturday.
That figures to be a challenge against a team that not only finished the regular season with the league's best record but also led the MLS in scoring behind striker Chris Wondolowski, who tied the regular-season record with 27 goals.
The conference semifinals are a home-and-away series decided by aggregate goals. The second game will be played Wednesday in Santa Clara. If the teams are tied at the end of 90 minutes there, a 30-minute overtime followed by penalty kicks, if necessary, will determine who advances to Western Conference final.
San Jose is among the league's most physical teams, which could be a problem for the hobbled Galaxy, which was without three regulars in its playoff opener against Vancouver last Thursday. The Galaxy has a big edge in playoff experience, though. Seventeen of the 30 players on its roster were with the team when it won the MLS Cup last November. The team is 24-3-1 in postseason games played at home.
"Our experience can help us if we use it to our advantage," captain Landon Donovan said. "At the end of the day it's still a soccer game. But if we're smart and we put ourselves in good positions, our experience can be a big factor."