CARSON, Calif. (AP) — Mike Magee scored the tying goal in the 69th minute and Landon Donovan converted a penalty kick four minutes later, leading the Los Angeles Galaxy to a 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps in a knockout playoff game Thursday night.
The defending MLS champion Galaxy endured a tense hour of play after Darren Mattocks scored in the fourth minute for fifth-seeded Vancouver, which had won just three of its last 17 matches.
Los Angeles’ stars finally came through. David Beckham’s corner kick helped set up Magee’s goal, and Donovan drew a penalty with a strong run to earn the go-ahead goal, the record 21st of his MLS playoff career.
The Galaxy advanced to a two-game Western Conference semifinal series against San Jose, which won the Supporters’ Shield as MLS’ best regular-season team.
The Earthquakes visit Home Depot Center on Sunday night.
Brad Knighton made several impressive stops in goal for the Whitecaps, who nearly pulled off a stunner after skidding into the playoffs. Vancouver still became the first Canadian MLS team to reach the postseason in just the franchise’s second MLS season.
The Galaxy lined up without experienced right back Sean Franklin, who was thought to be healthy despite leaving their last match with tightness in his left hamstring. Midfielder Christian Wilhelmsson also had to sit out with a right leg injury, Los Angeles announced moments before the game.
Vancouver capitalized on Franklin’s absence almost immediately when Matt Watson outfoxed replacement Hector Jimenez for a clear run down the sideline. Watson then passed to Mattocks, who beat Tommy Meyer in front and banged a bouncing shot off the far side of the net.
Just like that, the Whitecaps scored the first road goal in club history against the Galaxy after losing by a combined 8-0 in their first three matches in Carson.
Jimenez had never played right back for the Galaxy in a league game, only trying out the position in Champions League and reserve matches.
Los Angeles had 73 percent possession in the first half and put 13 attempts on goal, but got nothing. Knighton, making his first playoff start after five MLS seasons, barely deflected a gorgeous free kick by Beckham away from the top corner of his net.
The Galaxy maintained pressure after halftime, finally equalizing when Vancouver got caught sneaking out of its defensive shell. Beckham dropped a corner kick to Juninho, who found Magee unmarked for a nifty volley past Knighton.
Four minutes later, Donovan broke free on a run up the heart of Vancouver’s defense and was taken down by Martin Bonjour. Donovan neatly deposited the penalty shot past Knighton to extend his own career record for postseason goals.
Vancouver rarely threatened in the final minutes, and Beckham’s defense of his first MLS title stayed alive.
The Home Depot Center crowd for a weeknight game was thin but lively, with the Galaxy’s ardent supporters’ groups chanting “No Stanley Cups!” at the Whitecaps’ traveling fans. The eighth-seeded Kings eliminated the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks in the first round of last spring’s NHL playoffs on the way to Los Angeles’ first Stanley Cup title, while the Canucks have never won the Cup.
Lakers guard Steve Nash is a part-owner of the Whitecaps, but the two-time NBA MVP didn’t attend the game while resting his bruised left leg.