Tim Howard of the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, the U.S. Olympic team goalkeeper, had survived 87 minutes of Galaxy pressure at the Rose Bowl on Saturday and had, at most, only 13 more to endure.
Then Cobi Jones struck.
Receiving the ball to the left of the net, Jones set off on a weaving run through the MetroStars' defense, beating first Mark Semioli, then Daniel Hernandez, then Steve Jolley--former Galaxy players all--before cutting the ball back into the path of Luis Hernandez.
"El Matador" doesn't get gifts like that every day, and he fired a shot from eight yards out high to Howard's left to give the Galaxy a 1-0 lead.
Sixty seconds later, Hernandez collected a long pass from Danny Califf, went in one-on-one against Howard and beat him with a similar shot.
Call it Howard's end.
It was also the end of the MetroStars, who failed to win for the sixth consecutive game.
For the Galaxy, meanwhile, the 2-0 victory in front of 13,844 sun-baked fans made L.A. the first team in Major League Soccer history to win 100 regular-season games.
It also moved the Galaxy into a first-place tie with the San Jose Earthquakes in the Western Division for a few hours, before San Jose defeated Kansas City, 2-0.
"I think you can summarize it [the game] by saying that they had [Mexican World Cup star] Luis Hernandez on the bench and we had [A-League call-up] Cordt Weinstein," MetroStar Coach Octavio Zambrano said. "I think that pretty much tells the whole story."
Hernandez scored both goals--the second of which had more than a shade of offside about it--but he gave credit to Jones for the first.
"It was 90% Cobi's and 10% mine," he said.
Galaxy Coach Sigi Schmid, who had grown increasingly frustrated on the sideline as his team failed to take advantage of its clear superiority--it outshot the MetroStars, 15-5, including 8-2 in shots on target--was delighted by the turn of events.
"The longer a game goes like that," he said, "the tougher it becomes when you're the home team because the pressure's on you to score goals.
"We're happy, but it was one of those games where it was roll up your sleeves and work. It's not going to be pretty. It's going to be a little bit frustrating."
The MetroStars were without Clint Mathis, who is on crutches after surgery Tuesday to repair torn knee ligaments. The U.S. national team striker watched the game from the press box.
"We're stuck in a rut and we're trying to get out," he said. "We just have to have guys step it up. The defense has done really, really well. The Galaxy was putting pressure on us all game and we withstood it.
"It's a tough situation when you have a world-class player like Luis and he gets the ball eight yards out. There's really not much you can do as a goalkeeper.
"I don't think there are too many times where Luis is going to miss from eight yards out. You can't blame the defense, they did well all game. We just weren't able to get anything going forward."
That might change in the near future. Zambrano said he is seriously considering major changes.
"When you have [Alex] Comas and [Adolfo] Valencia, two of the most prolific goal-scorers in Colombian soccer, you expect better production," he said. "But it just hasn't happened and I can't tell you the reason. Everybody has opinions about it, but we have to do what we have to do, and that includes making tough decisions."
It was an uninspiring game until Jones set it alight.
His excellent run made up for all the frustration.
"Cobi had come over about five minutes earlier and said, 'Keep giving me the ball, I can take Semioli,' because Semioli had a little bit of an injury and they had already used all their substitutions," Schmid said.
"Luis did what good forwards do, he got himself in a good position and he finished well."
The goals were Hernandez's third and fourth of the season.