Sounders FC and the LA Galaxy are old hat at this thing by now.
So please forgive us if there was any real shock Sunday when the MLS Cup Playoff stars aligned and the Sounders and Galaxy slotted next to one another in the final Western Conference standings. Those final positions – even on 54 points but with Seattle in the all-important fourth seed and LA in fifth – mean there’s yet another round to go between these two sides, who have met in the postseason three times in the past five years.
The only difference this time? It’s a one-off in the Western Conference Knockout Round at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, with a berth in the conference semifinals on the line.
Before the teams bang heads yet again on Wednesday (7 p.m. PT; JoeTV/UniMas/KIRO 97.3/El Rey 1360 AM), let’s take a quick look back at the playoff history between the two.
2010 – Western Conference Semifinals
The first-ever postseason meeting between the two clubs seems like light years ago, considering how many times these clubs have changed big names in the years since. The Galaxy won the Supporters’ Shield during the regular season the backs of Landon Donovan, Edson Buddle and Omar Gonzalez, while the Sounders finished fourth in the West behind Fredy Montero, Steve Zakuani and Kasey Keller.
The Galaxy won the first leg in Seattle 1-0 on Halloween, in front of 35,521 fans on a stunning volley from Buddle in the 38th minute. Buddle earned a spot on Bob Bradley’s U.S. World Cup team earlier that summer during what was arguably his finest season as a pro, and his goal to sink the Sounders was his best moment of the season. The Sounders had their chances – they had an early goal ruled out for offside and Zakauni hit the post early in the second half – but the Galaxy got the crucial win on enemy turf.
David Beckham battled an Achilles injury for much of the 2010 regular season, but he was back in time for the Galaxy’s run in the postseason. He picked up two early assists to Buddle and Gonzalez to pad LA’s lead in the series before Zakuani scored his first career playoff goal in the waning minutes of the match. That goal was Seattle’s first-ever postseason goal in franchise history, but it wasn’t enough to save their season.
2012 – Western Conference Championship
The Sounders suffered through one of the worst hangovers in franchise history in the first leg in Los Angeles. After dumping Real Salt Lake in the conference semis, the Sounders fell victim to two goals from Robbie Keane and another from Mike Magee, and the first leg was lost in 3-0 fashion on the road.
One of the best games ever played between these two sides went down in front of more than 44,000 fans at CenturyLink Field. Despite trailing 3-0 in the aggregate-goal series, the Sounders made a game of this one right away, thanks to a 12th-minute goal from Eddie Johnson. Zach Scott added another in the 58th to pull the series to 3-2, but Keane converted a penalty kick in the 68th minute after a Adam Johansson hand ball, and the Sounders never recovered.
One of the lasting memories of this series – and in the entire rivalry, it should be said – was the goal that didn’t count. Johnson had a goal incorrectly waved off for offside in the 11th minute.
2014 – Western Conference Championship
Only the slimmest of margins separated the two teams last year, with the Sounders claiming the Supporters’ Shield on the final day of the regular with a dramatic win over LA at CenturyLink Field. The Galaxy responded a few weeks later with a 1-0 win at StubHub Center, thanks to Marcelo Sarvas goal in the second half against a shorthanded Sounders lineup that missed Osvaldo Alonso and Lamar Neagle. The Galaxy controlled most of the game, but left the door open for a Sounders turnaround in the second leg back in Seattle.
Not unlike two years before, the Sounders pounced once they were back home. Brad Evans scored in the 26th minute to level the series and Seattle knocked on the door repeatedly for more until Clint Dempsey scored his first career playoff goal against LA in the 32nd. That goal put Seattle up 2-1 in the series and well on the road to hosting the MLS Cup Final, but the Galaxy rallied in the second half.
Juninho scored his first goal in 18 career postseason games in the 54th minute on a well-struck shot that caromed off the left post and in, giving the Galaxy the all-important edge on away goals. The Galaxy went on to win MLS Cup, the fifth in franchise history.