Sounders FC and the LA Galaxy both made a number of significant acquisitions during the summer transfer window, adding some big-name players to bolster their rosters for the stretch run of the season. So when the two teams took the pitch on Wednesday for a Knockout Round match, they looked much different than last year’s meeting in the Western Conference Championship.
The Sounders prevailed 3-2 in dramatic fashion to advance past their longtime nemesis, and it was the new acquisitions that set up all three Seattle goals.
Erik Friberg, now in his second stint with the team, played in the cross that led to Clint Dempsey’s opening goal and eventually scored the dramatic winner late in the second half. Fellow summer signings Andreas Ivanschitz and Nelson Valdez combined for the second goal in the 12th minute, when one of Ivanschitz’s dangerous crosses found a wide-open Valdez right in front of goal.
Although they weren’t around for any previous postseason battles with the Galaxy, all three players were fully aware of the importance of Wednesday’s match. And it showed in the emotion they displayed after each goal that ignited the sellout crowd at CenturyLink Field.
“They’re guys that play with a lot of heart,” Head Coach Sigi Schmid said of the trio. “You can see that with Valdez, him sliding in for that second goal. One of the reasons we brought Ivanschitz here is because we knew he was going to give us some danger off set pieces. Andreas did a good job, served a good ball. …I think those guys certainly play a key role. But they’ve been in big games, they’ve been in big competitions, and they play with a lot of heart.”
That heart was on full display against LA, when Valdez and Ivanschitz both played through injuries before exiting the game in the final minutes. It was the first action for Valdez since injuring his calf on Oct. 4, while Ivanschitz rolled his ankle early in the second half.
Ivanschitz’s club debut was delayed by a month due to injury, but since he first donned a Sounders uniform in mid-September, he’s been involved in a goal in four out of seven games.
“It’s not easy to join a team during the season,” the Austrian midfielder said after Wednesday’s match. “I tried to get fit, first of all, and then tried to help the team. That’s my job. I bring my experience to the team, and that’s what matters. I hope that I can help the team even more.”
Ivanschitz, Valdez and Friberg have all scored or assisted on three goals in MLS action since joining the club over the summer. They were also vital to the club’s pair of CONCACAF Champions League victories that sent them through to next year’s quarterfinals.
For Friberg, Wednesday’s game-winner was his first MLS goal since re-joining the squad in June.
“It is always fun to score a goal, but the important thing is that we won the game,” he said. “Now we continue and hopefully we can play a good game on Sunday too.”