SEATTLE - A Halloween night crowd of 35,521 packed Qwest Field Sunday hoping to see the Sounders FC play as the better side in the first leg of their Western Conference Semifinal series with the LA Galaxy.
For the most part, they got what they wished for. However, Galaxy forward Edson Buddle scored the game’s only goal and Donovan Ricketts finished the night with a career-high eight saves and the Sounders go into the second leg of the series next Sunday in LA trailing 1-0.
“When you weigh the whole game, I thought we created more chances than they created. You take a goal where, hats off to Edson, but he just turns and hits the ball in the direction of the goal and it could go anywhere, but it went in,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “At the end of the day, right now, we’re down at halftime 1-0 and have a second half to play in LA and everything is still possible for us.”
Seattle laid the pressure on the Galaxy early, as Osvaldo Alonso got the first shot on goal in the first minute. Ricketts knocked down early shot from the top of the box and Steve Zakuani put in the rebound, but was flagged offside and the match remained scoreless.
Fredy Montero managed a shot in the 23rd minute, but his left-footed strike was pushed wide by Ricketts. On the ensuing corner kick it was Montero again, this time with a header that Ricketts was able to parry over the bar from close range.
The Galaxy’s only threats to that point had come off of David Beckham free kicks from distance and Kasey Keller was able to hold them off.
However, in the 38th minute, Buddle changed the course of the game with his only shot on goal of the night. Omar Gonzalez sent a high bouncing ball to Buddle 30 yards out on the right side. Buddle shielded defender Patrick Ianni to the inside and curled the ball over Keller and inside the far post for the improbable 1-0 lead.
“When he went to shoot I thought obviously Kasey would have it,” Ianni said. “But he hit a wonder strike.”
Even before the halftime whistle, Seattle was able to continue to make Ricketts the man of the match by forcing him into save after save. Nathan Sturgis bent a free kick around a two-man wall in the 42nd minute and Blaise Nkufo headed a ball on frame in the 45th minute. But on both occasions Ricketts utilized his 6-foot-5 frame to keep Seattle out of the net.
The second half saw similar results, with Ricketts smothering an 87th minute shot from late substitute Nate Jaqua and Zakuani missing wide on an earlier attempt after the ball had pinballed around the box. The second half saw much less of Ricketts making saves and more of the Galaxy absorbing the Seattle attack and limiting their opportunities on goal.
“Donovan came up with a couple big saves in the first half and in the second half, I think we squandered a couple chances,” Schmid said. “If we finish better or if Donovan doesn’t have the game that he has we may come off this field 2 or 3-1 winners. We weren’t worried at halftime going down 1-0 and were confident that we’d come back, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
The second leg of the aggregate goal series is Sunday, November 7, at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
Sounders FC - None.
Galaxy - Edson Buddle (Omar Gonzalez) 38.
Sounders FC - Kasey Keller, James Riley, Jeff Parke (Tyrone Marshall 65), Patrick Ianni, Leo Gonzalez, Sanna Nyassi (Alvaro Fernandez 74), Osvaldo Alonso, Nathan Sturgis (Nate Jaqua 81), Steve Zakuani, Fredy Montero, Blaise Nkufo.
Galaxy - Donovan Ricketts, Sean Franklin, A.J. DeLaGarza, Omar Gonzalez, Eddie Lewis (Gregg Berhalter 84), David Beckham, Juninho, Dem Covalence (Chris Birchall 70), Landon Donovan, Mike Magee, Edson Buddle (Jovan Kirovski 73).