Earthquakes' season comes to bitter end

Earthquakes' season comes to bitter end
November 8, 2012, 7:20 am
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SANTA CLARA -- After digging themselves a 3-0 hole in the first half to the LA Galaxy, the San Jose Earthquakes did all they could to draw on their never say die attitude, but could only manage one goal in a furious comeback attempt and lost 3-1 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate to exit the MLS Cup playoffs.

A brace from Robbie Keane and a series winning goal from Mike Magee were enough to overcome a late goal from Alan Gordon and send the Galaxy forward in their quest for a second consecutive MLS Cup.

Meanwhile, the 2012 Supporters Shield winning Earthquakes could not capitalize on their season-long unbeaten streak at sold-out Buck Shaw Stadium, and at the final whistle collapsed to the grass in defeat to their California Clasico rivals.

The Galaxy stormed out of the gates looking to put the Quakes defenders under early pressure, and in just the fourth minute Victor Bernardez was forced to concede a free kick 30 yards from goal after earning a yellow card for elbowing Omar Gonzalez. Specialist David Beckham sent the ball well over the target, but was a minute later lining up a 20 yard attempt after another Bernardez foul. This time, the Englishman curled a trademark shot over the wall that forced goalkeeper Jon Busch into a spectacular diving save.

Bernardez was forced from the game with a leg injury in the 12th minute and was replaced by Ike Opara. The Galaxy soon took advantage of the absence of the Earthquakes Defender of the Year when a miscue in the midfield allowed Keane to dribble uncontested toward the top of the penalty area. Slow to close down the Ireland international, Opara was too late to prevent Keane from unleashing a strong shot that bounced in off the post to give the Galaxy a 1-0 lead.

Chris Wondolowski had a golden chance to equalize in the 26th minute as the Earthquakes seemed to come to life after conceding the goal to Keane. A low cross into the area was not cleared by Gonzalez, and the ball popped loose to 10 yards from goal. Wondolowski pounced on the opportunity but sent his one-timer skimming over the crossbar.

The Galaxy doubled their advantage in the 34th minute on a counterattack engineered by Landon Donovan. Carrying the ball unimpeded toward the top of the Quakes area, the former San Jose star threaded a ball past Opara and into the path of Keane. He rounded the keeper and calmly slotted in his second goal of the night.

Donovan played provider on the Galaxys third goal as a smart give-and-go along the right sideline freed the U.S. international to cut back a cross into the Earthquakes penalty area. Magee, making a direct run from midfield, slotted the pass from Donovan past a helpless Busch to extend the Galaxy lead to 3-0 and stun the capacity Buck Shaw Stadium crowd into silence.

A flourish of scoring chances fell to the Earthquakes in the waning minutes of the first half, including a Marvin Chavez free kick that clanged off the post in the 41st minute, but the home side went into intermission licking their wounds at being down 3-1 on aggregate.

The second half started with San Jose showing more urgency in the attacking third, but the Galaxy back line settled into a solid rhythm of bend but dont break defending. And even when the Earthquakes sent quality crosses into the area, goalkeeper Josh Saunders was there to secure the ball from danger.

Second half substitutions Shea Salinas and Gordon brought renewed energy to the Earthquakes offense, and the home side began to press forward in ever increasing numbers. In the 83rd minute, the pressure finally paid off, as a weakly cleared corner kick fell to Justin Morrow 30 yards from goal. The Quakes defender volleyed a shot toward goal that Gordon deflected past Saunders and into the goal to cut the Galaxy lead to 3-1.

The Earthquakes nearly scored in stoppage time, a goal that would have leveled the series at 3-3, but Simon Dawkins skied an uncontested shot over the target with just over a minute left, and the Galaxy successfully ran out the clock to end the Quakes season.

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