BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) – San Jose Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop indicated he would have been content with a scoreless draw in the first leg of the Western Conference semifinals against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Thanks to a stunning late goal in that game, the host Earthquakes instead have a small cushion entering Wednesday night's series finale.
San Jose was focused on keeping the defending champion Galaxy off the scoreboard in Sunday's opening game on the road, and Victor Bernardez's goal in the 94th minute was a delightful bonus.
"I think it was a very mature away performance," Yallop told MLS' official website. "We didn't want to concede a goal. ... At this point, you've got to make sure you do that. We worked all week on defending."
Bernardez got a lucky bounce in the 1-0 victory when his free kick deflected off Los Angeles defender Omar Gonzalez's shin and past goalkeeper Josh Saunders.
"It's really big. It's great to steal a goal away," forward Steven Lenhart said. "I don't think it changes much, though. I think we have to keep the same mentality and be committed for 90 (minutes). They're a very dangerous team and they can score on the road as well as we saw a couple weeks ago."
The Galaxy played to a 2-all draw in Santa Clara on Oct. 21, and in the other two meetings this season the teams combined for 12 goals with San Jose winning both matchups.
"It's halftime," Yallop said. "We're one up, but 90 minutes of football is a long, long time."
The Galaxy will try to take advantage of those minutes as they attempt to move a step closer to becoming the first club to repeat as league champions since Houston won in each of its first two seasons in 2006 and 2007.
"We can't concede (a goal). We've got to be smart with our defending, but we're in a position now where we've got nothing to lose," midfielder Landon Donovan said. "We're going to go and try to win the game. There's no reason why the guys in this room can't go win a game in San Jose."
This game will likely be one of the final appearances at Buck Shaw Stadium this season for the Earthquakes. League commissioner Don Garber said Sunday that San Jose would not host the MLS Cup should it advance to that point despite winning the Supporters' Shield.
Garber considers the stadium's 10,744-seat capacity too small for the event. That could prove a big blow to the Earthquakes as they're 9-0-6 in their last 15 matches on their own pitch.
The winner of this series will face Seattle or Real Salt Lake in the West finals.