CARSON, California (AP) – San Jose's Victor Bernardez scored from a long-range free kick deep into stoppage time to give the Earthquakes a 1-0 win at Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday in the opening leg of their MLS Western Conference semifinal series.
Meanwhile in the Eastern Conference, Houston Dynamo had a 2-0 home win over Sporting Kansas City, taking the advantage ahead of the second leg.
Bernandez, the Honduran center back, blistered the ball from 31 yards through the Galaxy wall at the top of the box and off goalkeeper Josh Saunders, who was unable to keep it from crossing the goal line.
The second leg between the California rivals is Wednesday in Santa Clara with the winner advancing to a home-and-away matchup against either the Seattle Sounders or Real Salt Lake for a berth in the Dec. 1 MLS Cup final.
''It's halftime,'' said San Jose coach Frank Yallop, whose team twice rallied from two-goal deficits to beat L.A. this season and overcame two disadvantages for a 2-2 draw two weeks ago. ''It was an even game, they shaded on chances, for sure, but we're going home now. ... We're one up, but 90 minutes of football is a long, long time.
''They're going to throw everything at us to try to get the equalizer and obviously try to go on and win. We know that.''
Bernardez, who forced a sprawling save from Saunders on a free kick at the start of the second half, took the kick after Marcelo Sarvas fouled Simon Dawkins, a call the Galaxy disputed. His low shot sneaked through the wall, and Saunders made the initial stop but couldn't control the spinning ball.
''I'm always looking to score when I take a free kick like that from distance,'' said Bernardez. ''The important thing is it went in. That's all that really matters.''
The Galaxy had more and better chances in an intense affair battled primarily in midfield, but their best opportunity - a Robbie Keane blast from 26 yards in the 86th minute - rebounded off the crossbar. L.A. didn't take a shot until the 67th minute -- Sean Franklin firing toward the lower-left corner - and that was the only difficult stop Quakes goalkeeper Jon Busch was forced to make.
''Our team played well tonight,'' Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. ''We didn't finish off plays technically in and around the penalty area. It cost us the game. We were in position to get a goal or two tonight for sure. Failed to execute the last pass or shot.''
Houston got goals from Adam Moffat and Will Bruin to give the Texan club a narrow advantage ahead of the return in Kansas City on Wednesday.
''It's not over,'' Houston Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear said. ''We know that. If we go to Kansas City thinking that 2-0 is going to carry us to the top and take care of itself, then we are approaching the game the wrong way, and I won't let them do that.''
Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes said being down 2-0 was not disastrous for them.
''It would be better if it was 0-0 or 2-0 our way, right?'' Vermes said. ''I wouldn't use that word (disastrous). There are many teams that have come back from this.''
Moffat put the Dynamo ahead in spectacular style in the 18th minute, half-volleying a header from Bruin from 30 yards out.
''The result is fantastic,'' Moffat said. ''To get the two goals, the clean sheet doesn't matter as much. It's good for confidence to get that victory. We are delighted, but we know we are halfway there.''
Bruin extended Houston's lead to 2-0 in the 75th minute, collecting a cross from Calen Carr in the middle of the box and shooting into upper right corner from 10 yards out.
Bruin scored twice in Houston's 2-1 win at Chicago last week in the Eastern Conference wild-card game.
C.J. Sapong missed a chance to equalize in the 34th minute, having a shot from the left saved by Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall.
Aurelien Collin had a chance to put Kansas City on the board in the 79th minute, but Collin was ruled offside.
''Them getting the first goal 20 minutes in changed the game a little bit,'' Vermes said. ''They did a very good job in the first half of every time we got the ball, putting numbers around us and either winning the ball or they fouled us and broke the rhythm of the game very quickly. They got 11 guys behind the ball. It slowed the game down for them. They did a good job on the counter, especially the second goal. It's halftime. We are getting ready for the second half now.''
Houston lost defender Jermaine Taylor with a left knee injury early in the second half.