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Galaxy advances to conference finals with 3-1 win over Earthquakes

Robbie Keane scores twice, Mike Magee adds a goal and Landon Donovan has two assists to help L.A. win the two-leg series, 3-2, on aggregate score.

November 07, 2012|By Kevin Baxter

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- When the Galaxy won the MLS Cup last year it gave David Beckham league titles in three countries, making him something of an expert on championships.

So with the Galaxy 90 minutes away from the off-season entering Wednesday's Western Conference semifinal with the San Jose Earthquakes, Beckham was speaking from experience when he insisted everything that had happened in the previous eight months would mean nothing if the team didn't repeat.

"There's no season that can be a success if you don't win any silverware at the end of it," he said. "We had a taste of it last season and we enjoyed it. We loved it.

"Any season without a championship is unsuccessful."

So with its season hanging in the balance, the inspired Galaxy responded with its best performance of the year, staving off playoff elimination with a dominant 3-1 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes.

Robbie Keane scored two first-half goals and Mike Magee added a third while Landon Donovan contributed a pair of assists, sending the Galaxy on to the two-leg Western Conference finals beginning Sunday at the Home Depot Center. The Galaxy will face the winner of Thursday's match between Real Salt Lake and Seattle.

"Well, obviously a good win for us," Coach Bruce Arena said. "We have a good team. Arguably the best in the league, and we have a chance to prove it again in the next series."

Few who watched the hobbled Galaxy struggle through the last month would have predicted this.

After losing the first game of the two-leg series with San Jose, 1-0, on a goal in stoppage time, the Galaxy entered Wednesday's rematch needing at least a goal just to force overtime. It got that out of the way in the 21st minute when Keane took a pass from Magee and unleashed a right-footed shot that bounced off the left post and into the net for a 1-0 lead.

Keane doubled the advantage 13 minutes later, gathering a through ball from Donovan, deking San Jose keeper Jon Busch to his knees and laying a soft right-footer from a difficult angle into the open net. That made Keane the first Galaxy player to score twice in a postseason game since Donovan in 2005.

By the time Magee converted another Donovan pass into a goal in the 39th minute, the Galaxy not only had a commanding 3-0 first-half lead but they had a two-goal cushion in the series as well.

Second-half substitute Alan Gordon cut that in half in the 82nd minute for San Jose, but the Earthquakes, needing a second goal to force overtime, got off just one more shot against an exhausted Galaxy defense and that one — a dangerous chance by Ike Opara midway into stoppage time — went over the net.

The Galaxy was aggressive from the opening kickoff and got some help from referee Kevin Stott, forcing San Jose into three fouls in the first five minutes. But Stott's whistle did little to curb both teams' clean, physical play with San Jose losing center back Victor Bernardez to a knee sprain in the 12th minute while Busch and forward Steven Lenhart took hard hits that left them momentarily stunned.

But if the Galaxy's clutch play was a surprise, so was San Jose's collapse. The Earthquakes had the league's best regular-season record and led MLS with 72 goals.

They were also unbeaten in 15 games at tiny Buck Shaw Stadium and hadn't lost in four meetings with the Galaxy.

But they were outclassed and outhustled all night by a desperate Galaxy team that knew its season depended on the outcome.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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