SAN JOSE -- The only other time the Earthquakes won the regular-season title they got knocked out of the Major League Soccer playoffs by the Los Angeles Galaxy.
A repeat of 2005 isn't out of the question as top-seeded San Jose opens the Western Conference semifinals at 6 p.m. Sunday at the Home Depot Center in Carson.
In what is expected to be a captivating two-game series, the California rivals also play at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Buck Shaw Stadium. The team with the most goals after both games advances to the conference finals.
Although the Galaxy finished fourth in the West during the regular season, it has gone 7-2-3 since August, including a stirring 2-1 playoff victory Thursday over the Vancouver Whitecaps.
"They're not the defending champions for no reason," Quakes defender Justin Morrow said Friday. "They showed that. They've been there before."
The Galaxy won the regular-season title and the MLS Cup last year. That has happened only two other times in the past decade with Chicago (2008) and Los Angeles (2002).
San Jose won the Supporters' Shield this year with a team-record 66 points behind the prolific scoring of Chris Wondolowski (27 goals), Alan Gordon (13), Steven Lenhart (10) and Simon Dawkins (8).
But it will have a steep challenge against the Galaxy and its lineup of stars fit for Hollywood.
"We can't be afraid of this day," San Jose coach Frank Yallop said. "We can't be afraid of going in being
The Galaxy's lineup includes three designated players and some of the league's biggest names in David Beckham and Landon Donovan. The team also is coming together just in time for the playoffs after struggling earlier in the year with injuries.
The recent pairing of Irish international Robbie Keane and Edson Buddle has rewarded coach Bruce Arena. Keane, a late-season pick up from Tottenham Hotspur last year, has been one of MLS' most dynamic players with 16 goals in 28 games.
Los Angeles is so deep outstanding players such as Juninho and Mike McGee don't get much attention. McGee, for example, has scored four goals in the past five games.
In three regular-season matches San Jose outscored Los Angeles 9-7 and posted a 2-0-1 record.
The Earthquakes rallied from two-goal deficits to win 3-2 on May 23 in Carson and 4-3 on June 30 at Stanford. They also rebounded twice in a 2-2 draw last month at Buck Shaw Stadium.
"We can't do that anymore, not in the playoffs," captain Ramiro Corrales said. "We got to tighten it up, not only in the back but in the midfield. If you give those guys space in time they are going to punish you."
Both teams enter Sunday's game with some injury questions. Yallop isn't sure whether Gordon and Dawkins' ankle problems will be resolved in time.
Los Angeles has even more issues after Juninho suffered an Achilles tendon injury near the end of Thursday's game. Arena held out defender Sean Franklin against the Whitecaps but expects him to play Sunday.
Another leading defender, A.J. DeLaGarza, is questionable, whereas Swedish midfielder Christian Wilhelmsson suffered a minor quadriceps injury in practice this week.
Nothing seems to have helped Los Angeles as much as the return of 6-foot-5 center back Omar Gonzalez from knee surgery. The 2011 MLS defender of the year can neutralize the Earthquakes' Lenhart and Gordon because of his imposing size.
But Gonzalez can't stop all of the Quakes.
"If we have Lenny and Alan on the field together, they are a handful," Yallop said.
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.