SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Major League Soccer's regular season isn't even over and already the story lines for next month's playoffs are being written.
Written, in some cases, in blood.
After twice giving up one-goal leads in the second half of a rugged 2-2 tie with San Jose on Sunday, the black-and-blue Galaxy was red with anger, calling out the Earthquakes, the officials and even the league for sanctioning the chippy play.
"Those guys are a bunch of jokes," Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez said of the Earthquakes. "The way that they play the game is just obnoxious.
"It just wasn't even fun out there. It was terrible."
All of which could make the teams' possible rematch in the Western Conference semifinals much more interesting — provided the Galaxy makes it that far.
The draw with San Jose combined with Seattle's victory over Dallas ensures the Galaxy will finish fourth in the conference, meaning it must win a Nov. 1 play-in match with Vancouver — a team the Galaxy has already beaten twice this season — to get another shot at top-seeded San Jose.
Gonzalez has already circled the date on his calendar.
"I look forward to it," he said.
But back to Sunday's match, which had more pushing and shoving than it did scoring, especially in a first half that featured a dust-up between San Jose's Steven Lenhart and Galaxy rookie Tommy Meyer and another between the Galaxy's Edson Buddle and the Quakes' Sam Cronin.
The Galaxy, playing without the injured Landon Donovan (knee) and David Beckham (ankle), finally broke on top in the 59th minute when a sliding Robbie Keane got his right foot on a Buddle cross that bounced to him, first off teammate Christian Wilhelmsson and then off San Jose's Justin Morrow.
The lead stood for only two minutes, though, before Gonzalez was whistled for a hotly disputed foul on Lenhart, setting up a 25-yard free kick that Marvin Chavez bent over the Galaxy wall and inside the near post.
"We played well against 12 men, with the referee," Keane said.
A Buddle header off a Sean Franklin cross put the Galaxy back in front in the 69th minute and this time the lead lasted twice as long before San Jose pulled even when Chris Wondolowski headed in a Chavez corner kick in the 73rd minute.
Afterward, Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant, who played his first two seasons for San Jose, was ready to declare the once-dormant feud between the two California teams alive and well just in time for the conference semifinals — provided the Galaxy makes it that far.
"It's back at full strength. Both teams are competing for a championship," he said. "And big games [are] what rivalries are made of."
Well, that and grudges, which is what Gonzalez is working on.
"You're just running and all of sudden you get blindsided…. It's just dumb [stuff] like that that happens every time," he said. "That's not the way the game should be played. It's embarrassing. And I don't know what else to say.
"The league should do a better job about protecting the players."