CARSON, Calif. - On a day with fireworks ringing through the air all around the Home Depot Center, the Sounders FC were dealing with some C4 in the LA Galaxy. Coming into the game with a comfortable lead in the Western Conference standings, the Galaxy welcomed home Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle from the World Cup. And there was no greater day than Independence Day to insert them back into the lineup.
The US Soccer stars combined on a goal in the 19th minute and the Galaxy ran away with a 3-1 win over the Sounders FC, extending their lead in the West.
“We got beat by a better team simple as that nothing more. That is what we need to strive to do bring that energy bring that ability,” Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller said. “We found a way to keep the score respectable and now we need to figure out the rest. We are not at the level we need to be at and obviously we need to improve drastically.”
The Galaxy wasted no time in asserting pressure on the Sounders FC. Not long after Donovan and Buddle received rousing ovations from the 27,000 in attendance at the Home Depot Center, Michael Stephens shot across the front of the goal from ten yards out and found the back post, where the ball caromed back to Keller for the stop.
LA maintained that pressure though, earning eight first-half corner kicks. It was on a second in consecutive possessions that Donovan found Buddle for a great header at the far post to give the Galaxy the 1-0 lead in the 19th minute.
It was the 10th goal of the season for Buddle and the 10th assist for Donovan, both league-leading statistics.
That score held until halftime despite the Galaxy outshooting Seattle 12-3 going into the intermission.
“You can see even the fans were screaming and yelling every time they touched the ball,” Sounders FC midfielder Steve Zakuani said. “They came out with energy credit to them they came out the first 45 minutes they were playing some great stuff and made some great movements. For us at half time we were 1-nil down and we actually had some good chances in the first half it could have been 1-1. As well as they played they scored one we came out in the second half to stay in the game.”
However, the Galaxy took over where they left off to start the second half and capitalized on a Seattle foul 32 yards out. Juninho lined up over the ball and hammered the free kick into the top right corner for a 2-0 lead in the 48th minute.
Then second-half substitutes Nate Jaqua and Mike Seamon triggered an offensive resurgence from the Sounders, clawing their way back into the game.
With a more offensive tact, the Sounders were pressing forward when Fredy Montero rolled a ball to Zakuani on the left side. Zakuani weaved his way around the LA defense and into the box, where he blasted his fifth goal of the season past Donovan Ricketts in the 66th minute.
Seattle looked to be gaining momentum after chopping the lead in half, then their unfortunate luck struck again.
Alan Gordon, a late insertion for Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena, darted up the right side and crossed a ball for Donovan coming down the middle of the box. Trying to keep Donovan from scoring, James Riley slid down the middle of the six-yard box to defend the ball and inadvertently knocked it into the net for an own goal in the 77th minute, giving the Galaxy a 3-1 lead that would hold until the final whistle.
“LA was better than us,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “It’s obviously disappointing. We have to play with energy, and I think we got overrun.”
The Sounders fall to 4-8-3 (15 points, 7th in the West) on the season, while the Galaxy improve to 11-1-3 (36 points) to lead the West.
The Sounders will host the quarterfinal of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup against the Galaxy on Wednesday at Starfire. They return to MLS play on Sunday when they host FC Dallas at Qwest Field.
Sounders FC - Steve Zakuani (Fredy Montero) 66.
LA Galaxy - Edson Buddle (Landon Donovan) 19; Juninho 48; Own Goal (James Riley) 77.
Sounders FC - Kasey Keller, James Riley, Jeff Parke, Tyrone Marshall, Leo Gonzalez, Freddie Ljungberg (Miguel Montano 83), Peter Vagenas (Mike Seamon 51), Patrick Ianni, Steve Zakuani, Pat Noonan (Nate Jaqua 46), Fredy Montero.
LA Galaxy - Donovan Ricketts, Sean Franklin, Omar Gonzalez, Gregg Berhalter, Todd Dunivant, Landon Donovan, Chris Birchall, Junín (Alex Cazumba 85), Michael Stephens, Edson Buddle (Alan Gordon 62), Tristan Bowen (Chris Klein 75).