Chris Erskine: Tough break for the L.A. Galaxy, now do-or-die

After the Galaxy loses Sunday to the Earthquakes on a late goal, it learns you can never have enough offense. Too bad soccer won't make it easier to score.

As with any great opera, the tenor dies in the end, falling upon his own scimitar as the teary-eyed vixen sings her heart out. And the fat lady is nowhere to be found.

That's because the L.A. Galaxy still has a chance at resurrection Wednesday night against San Jose, in the weirdest playoff arrangement ever — a two-act series decided by total goals.

Somebody call a lawyer.

Somebody fire the playwright.

That soft sobbing you heard Sunday night coming from around the Home Depot Center was the townspeople crying in their $11 beers. They'd suffered the sort of ugly ending that haunts soccer far too often, the clearly dominant team, the Galaxy, losing 1-0 to a bunch of grave robbers renowned for such last-minute hijinks, the Earthquakes.

Now the Galaxy heads north for a do-or-die game it must win by at least two goals.

Good luck, Galaxy. My money is on you. All 11 cents.

Poor Galaxy, just when it has assembled American soccer's most interesting lineup in that beautiful little bandbox of a stadium off the 110.

Not a bad seat in the house. Kids everywhere. This is L.A.'s finest family sports value, with playoff seats going for as little as $10. There are more children at a Galaxy game than at all the Lakers games throughout history.

As such, the atmosphere is mostly PG. I heard not a single F-bomb, a moral victory for an L.A. sports crowd and something I think we can build on in the future.

Galaxy games are also mostly free of that most annoying of all L.A. creatures, the sports-loving celeb — except of course for David Beckham, who is so Euro and chic he seems to glow on the field like some sort of 3-D Armani ad.

Till he left in the 78th minute, the Galaxy so dominated Sunday's game that when San Jose finally got a couple of opportunities at the end, somebody had to throw a shoe at the L.A. defense.

How many times have you seen that in this cursed sport, the better team falling victim to a freak goal after the defense — stiff-legged and nearly arthritic after standing around for 30 minutes — suddenly needs to firehouse into action, then fails.

Poor Josh Saunders. The Earthquakes' ridiculous last-second goal looked like a Pekingese scooting under your neighbor's hedge.

The Galaxy prefers to blame the ref for Sunday's loss rather than their own passive play around the goal. God gets up early to see passes like Landon Donovan's brilliant heel kick to Robbie Keane, who then ka-zinged a shot off the crossbar. Other than that, the Galaxy tended to make the safe set-up pass rather than attack San Jose's rice-paper back line.

Now playing at the Home Depot Center: the Princeton offense.

Nobody ever listens, but if I were MLS commish I'd supersize the goals and eliminate the dubious offside rule that only muzzles scoring. Don't mean to be critical, but now and then a goal would be nice. No franchise ever suffered from too much offense.

Think of me as Halas introducing the forward pass.

But I'm pretty sure soccer will go on as always. Purists will explain that the game is like Doris Day movies, that when someone finally scores it's all the more special. Which is probably why nobody ever watches Doris Day movies anymore.

Purists might also point out that if soccer is so flawed, why are there three Galaxy fan clubs, one more nuts than the next?

There are the Galaxians, who date to the Paleolithic era, when the Galaxy played in the Rose Bowl. There is the Riot Squad, a covey of roustabouts who pride themselves on a more English style of cheering. And finally, there's the Angel City Brigade, which performed some throbby dance move late in Sunday's game that looked like a rodent giving birth to a toaster.

"We improvise a lot more, and they have a lot more structure," Riot Squadder James Demastus says of the differences.

Huh?

"What happens is that we're like a family that gets mad at each other and breaks apart," explained Galaxian Linda Pickle of the three fan groups.

That's right, Pickle. As in the situation the defending champs now find themselves.

Prediction? Galaxy by a field goal.

chris.erskine@latimes.com

Twitter: @erskinetimes
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