CARSON, California - All things come to an end.
And while the Sounders FC hoped their season wouldn’t end until November 21 at the MLS Cup in Toronto, they first had to get past the Supporters’ Shield winning LA Galaxy. They felt good going into the second leg of the Western Conference Semifinal series trailing just 1-0, but were never able to find that equalizer and the Galaxy won 2-1 at the Home Depot Center to take the series 3-1 on aggregate.
“Basically, we started off the game poorly, put ourselves behind the eight ball,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “I think we showed some character in the second half and created enough chances. But creating chances alone doesn’t do it. You have to score goals.”
David Beckham proved to be the difference in the game, setting up both LA goals off of set pieces in the first half. Seattle went to extremes to try to equalize, but couldn’t get themselves out from beneath the three-goal deficit.
On the night, Seattle was called for 13 fouls, many of which came in a threatening position for the Galaxy, and LA earned five corner kicks, giving Beckham ample opportunity to put on display his famous dead ball magic.
In the 19th minute, it was a corner kick that found its way into the middle of the box at the goal mouth where Edson Buddle’s header was waiting to deposit it into the net for a 1-0 lead.
Not long after, Beckham took a free kick from 28 yards out on the right side and found defender Omar Gonzalez on a near post run for a header into the net in the 28th minute.
“Obviously we didn’t mark well on set pieces and we paid the price for it,” said Sounders FC goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who finished the night with two saves. “We put ourselves in a big hole.
That put Seattle in a near-impossible three-goal hole. Even still, with over 60 minutes to play, the Sounders sought to battle their way back into the game.
In the second half, they mustered 10 shots, but only two were on frame, Steve Zakuani’s 86th minute goal being the only one that wasn’t saved by MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Donovan Ricketts.
The desperate late-game push wasn’t enough and the Galaxy advanced with a 3-1 aggregate goals win over Seattle.
“In this kind of game at this stage of the playoffs it is about taking your chances. Over the two legs they did better than we did,” Zakuani said.
The Galaxy advance to face FC Dallas Sunday in the Western Conference Final.
Seattle, meanwhile, begins the process of crafting their team for 2011. With a young nucleus in place that is now battle-tested through two years of first-round playoff defeats, they have a lot to build on and will be looking to break the playoff winless streak.
And as Zakuani proved by scoring the club’s first playoff goal after 385 scoreless playoff minutes, all things - both good and bad - come to an end.
Sounders FC - Steve Zakuani (Nate Jaqua) 86.
LA Galaxy - Edson Buddle (David Beckham) 19; Omar Gonzalez (Beckham) 27.
Sounders FC - Kasey Keller, James Riley, Tyrone Marshall, Patrick Ianni (Nate Jaqua 77), Leo Gonzalez, Sanna Nyassi (Alvaro Fernandez 46), Osvaldo Alonso, Nathan Sturgis (Mike Fucito 64), Steve Zakuani, Fredy Montero, Blaise Nkufo.
LA Galaxy - Donovan Ricketts, Sean Franklin, Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza, Eddie Lewis, David Beckham, Dema Kovalenko (Chris Birchall 74), Juninho, Landon Donovan, Mike Magee (Todd Dunivant 80), Edson Buddle (Tristan Bowen 71).