SANTA CLARA -- One Los Angeles Galaxy player called the Earthquakes boring.
Another said they're a joke.
With all the verbal sparring going on the MLS Western Conference semifinals between the Earthquakes and Galaxy sound more like a prize fight than a soccer match.
The animosity that has been building between these historic rivals reached a crescendo heading into the final leg of the home-and-home series Wednesday night at Buck Shaw Stadium. The slings have been directed at San Jose, which overcame a rough outing Sunday to defeat the Galaxy 1-0 with an extra-time goal at the Home Depot Center in Carson.
The team with the most goals after two games advances to the conference final this weekend against the Real Salt Lake-Seattle Sounders winner. In other words, the Quakes would advance with a draw in a match featuring Major League Soccer's highest-scoring teams.
So far Los Angeles is scoring talking points because the Quakes aren't going negative in this campaign.
"In between the lines is where we will do our talking," San Jose defender Jason Hernandez said Tuesday.
The latest injustice to U.S. soccer's richest club was the foul called in the 94th minute that led to the game-winning goal by Victor Bernardez. Prickly L.A. coach Bruce Arena confronted referee Ricardo Salazar after the match.
"It cost us the game," he said of the call on midfielder Marcelo Sarvas.
However, Sarvas was shown in a photo pulling Simon Dawkins' jersey from behind as the Quakes striker tried to get the ball. Before being told about the photo Dawkins said Tuesday that he felt "someone drag my shirt and it was enough for me to go down."
Disparaging remarks have been coming out of Los Angeles since the teams tied Oct. 22 at Buck Shaw in a game in which Galaxy supporters were ushered from the stands because of a fight. At least seven fans were arrested, mostly for interfering with police.
"I think those guys are a bunch of jokes, the way they play the game," Galaxy center back Omar Gonzalez said after that game. "It was just obnoxious. And, you know, it wasn't even fun out there. It was terrible."
Then Gonzalez took aim at the Quakes' Steven Lenhart, a hard-charging forward who riles up opponents.
"It all starts when the ball's on the other side of the field, and you're just running and all of a sudden you get blindsided. You just get checked by Lenhart or something. That's not the way the game should be played. It's embarrassing."
Lenhart repeated Tuesday what he has said in the past: "I don't care what people say."
Sarvas joined the chorus last week, saying San Jose's style is "nothing beautiful to see. It's some kind of boring football, my opinion, but it is the way they are leading the league, so we have to respect this and be ready for it."
While Earthquakes players have offered nothing but praise for their talented rival, coach Frank Yallop came to his club's defense.
"We've faced a lot of adversity all year being the unfashionable, fouling, ugly team, but 72 goals ain't bad for an ugly team," he said after Sunday's game.
Yallop summarily dismissed the Galaxy's chirping as nothing more than frustration spilling over. San Jose has defeated Los Angeles in three of four matches this season, twice scoring in the 94th minute. The teams tied in the other match.
The coach understands how the Galaxy might feel after playing so well and not getting the result it wanted.
"What it comes down to is they sort of mean it but really they're just trying to get their house in order," he said. "Sometimes when you're frustrated you say things you don't really want to say but do."
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.