CARSON, California – For the first half of the Sounders FC’s match with the LA Galaxy on Sunday at the Home Depot Center, Seattle looked like a team bound for a brawl of a series similar to their Western Conference Semifinals with Real Salt Lake that ended with a 1-0 victory for the Sounders on Thursday.
A Robbie Keane goal just before the halftime whistle changed the perspective a bit, but two more goals in a three-minute span spawned memories of Seattle’s playoff series with Salt Lake in 2011, when RSL leaped out to a 3-0 lead in the first leg.In that series, the Sounders battled back with two goals in the home leg, but could not find the equalizer. That dominating second-leg performance is something the Sounders will have to draw on as they will again look to bounce back from a 3-0 deficit, this time in the Western Conference Championships with the LA Galaxy.
“It's a tough one to take, very similar to last year in Salt Lake, so it is disappointing we continued that,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “We went through a bad period in the second half were we lost our shape, lost our concentration, lost our focus, and they bang away two goals, and we are actually a little fortunate it wasn't three or four.”
Over the first 45 minutes of the match, Seattle was able to limit Keane’s impact on the game through tough defending from the center back pair of Jeff Parke and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, but Keane would finally break through just before halftime.
LA put pressure up the right side and Sean Franklin got the ball into the box for Landon Donovan, who got to the endline at the edge of the six-yard box. There, he crossed the ball to the far post for Keane, who got space behind Adam Johansson and put a header into the open net before Gspurning could recover for a 1-0 Galaxy lead just before the halftime whistle.
The goal ended Seattle’s playoff shutout streak at 317 consecutive minutes.
With still 135 minutes left to play in the series, the Sounders came out in the second half with a focus on riding out the early deficit and avoiding leaving themselves vulnerable to the volatile LA counter-attack.
However two quick lapses from that mentality left Seattle open to strikes from Mike Magee in the 64th minute and Keane again in the 67th minute.
The Sounders had an opportunity to even it up in the 64th minute when they got numbers in and around the LA box, but were unable to get a clean shot away. Then the Galaxy charged off the other direction and Keane lead Franklin with a ball up the right side. He crossed it to Magee at the top of the box and the opportunistic midfielder put it away for the goal and a 2-0 Galaxy lead.
Just three minutes later, LA made it 3-0 when an initial shot from outside the box was blocked into the air. Coming to the right post, Christian Wilhelmsson chested it down and played it to the far post where Keane charged onto it uncontested and touched it into the open net.
“I’m just disappointed that we didn’t keep it 1-0,” Schmid said. “I thought we had the ability to keep it at 1-0 and we should have kept it at 1-0 and played with a better mentality.”
Despite falling behind 3-0, the Sounders returned to their prior effort and kept the Galaxy from adding to that lead despite further opportunities throughout the rest of the match.
The Sounders will look to stage a comeback in the second leg on Sunday, November 18 at CenturyLink Field. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. PT with television coverage on ESPN. Tickets are available at SoundersFC.com.
Sounders FC – None.
LA Galaxy – Robbie Keane (Landon Donovan, Sean Franklin) 46+; Mike Magee (Robbie Keane, Sean Franklin) 64; Robbie Keane (Christian Wilhelmsson) 67.
Sounders FC – Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (caution) 14.
LA Galaxy – None.
Sounders FC – Michael Gspurning, Adam Johansson, Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Zach Scott, Mario Martinez, Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Alex Caskey (Steve Zakuani 73), Christian Tiffert (Andy Rose 72), Fredy Montero (Eddie Johnson 65).
LA Galaxy – Josh Saunders, Sean Franklin, Omar Gonzalez, Tommy Meyer, Todd Dunivant, Christian Wilhelmsson (Michael Stephens 77), Juninho (Marcelo Sarvas 46), David Beckham, Mike Magee, Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan (Jose Villareal 84).