The challenge facing the Galaxy on Wednesday in Santa Clara is simple: Win or go home.
After that, things get a little complicated.
That's because Major League Soccer's conference semifinals are actually a two-leg playoff in which the winner is determined by total goals. And because the San Jose Earthquakes won the opening match, 1-0, on a free-kick goal in stoppage time at Carson, the Galaxy must win the rematch by a goal just to pull even and force an immediate overtime.
And if the teams are still even at the end of a 30-minute overtime Wednesday? Then the teams go to a tiebreaking penalty-kick shootout to determine the winner of the series.
If you're confused at this point, don't worry. None of that matters if the Galaxy doesn't win the first 90 minutes.
"It's all on us," Galaxy striker Robbie Keane said after a brisk training session Tuesday at the Home Depot Center. "We know what we have to do. We can't afford to lose because if not, our season's over."
Added captain Landon Donovan hopefully: "Maybe being down a goal will create some urgency. We've got to really go attack and try to get it."
That won't be easy. San Jose not only finished the regular season with the league's best record, but it led MLS in scoring with better than two goals a game. And the Earthquakes did even better than that at tiny Buck Shaw Stadium, site of Wednesday's match, where they were unbeaten in 15 tries, scoring 39 times.
Plus the Galaxy hasn't beaten San Jose in four tries this season, blowing leads in three of those games and giving up 10 goals.
But overcoming long odds has been a hallmark of a veteran Galaxy team just a year removed from an MLS Cup title.
Consider that, three months into the season, the Galaxy was last in the Western Conference standings and playing without its All-Star center back and its starting goalkeeper. Then it rallied to win 12 of its next 17 games to clinch a playoff berth.
Or that, owing to injuries, the Galaxy's top four defenders started only seven games together this season. Yet only three teams finished the season with a better goal differential.
"Our team has confidence. We have the character," midfielder David Beckham said. "We've had people doubt us, whether we were going to get into the playoffs. We get into the playoffs and then we don't play as well as we can.
"But these are obstacles you have to overcome as champions. And we want to keep hold of this trophy."
Coach Bruce Arena agreed, likening the Galaxy's one-goal deficit midway through the playoff series to a team entering the second half of a game down by a score.
"We're excited as a group to take on this challenge," he said. "We're going to have to score one more goal than they do. We're certainly capable of that."