Sounders 2 : 1 LA Galaxy (Galaxy win 4-2 on aggregate)
by David Wittstock
Seattle Sounders beat the LA Galaxy 2-1 but fell 4-2 on aggregate in the semi-finals of the Western Conference playoffs, Sunday night in Seattle.
Goals from Eddie Johnson and Zach Scott had Sounders faithful delirious as a miracle comeback came into view, but a Galaxy goal off a penalty mid-way through the second half killed the tie.
Coming off the crushing 3-0 defeat in LA a week ago, Sounders put in a performance that in some measure redeemed themselves for the first leg, but in the end found the deficit too much to overcome.
Kicking off in a chilly and soggy Sunday evening, Seattle were buoyed by the late change less than a half an hour to game time which added Mauro Rosales to the bench in place of Alex Caskey.
Steve Zakuani got the start on the left wing, the only change from the side that lost in LA a week ago.
Seattle started the game with an urgency natural for the huge task at hand. Sounders’ first ten minutes had the intensity of the final moments of extra time in a close match.
Eddie Johnson wasted a brilliant opportunity in the fourth minute to put Sounders out front and LA under real pressure. Fredy Montero picked Johnson on a run and played a long, curving ball from the left springing the striker one v one with keeper Josh Saunders. Johnson dribbled to the edge of the 18 yard box, but his shot was high over the crossbar.
Seattle had a goal ruled offside in the 10th minute, which was shown on replay to be an incorrect decision. Christian Tiffert just off the right and 25 yards out fed Johnson on a run towards the near post. Johnson’s shot found the bottom corner but was ruled offside. The replay showed Johnson to be a step behind the last defender. Zakuani was offside but inactive.
There was no doubt, however, a minute later when Johnson again finished to cut Seattle’s deficit to two goals. The play started with a Brad Evans pass being deflected and bouncing towards Zach Scott who dove in to challenge for the ball. The ball left Scott’s boot into the path of Johnson’s run on the left side of the box and with a step on Omar Gonzalez.
On this occasion Johnson kept his shot low and found the back of the net to send the large rain sodden crowd wild.
The chances began flowing for Seattle as Galaxy were overwhelmed by the intensity of Seattle’s attack.
Fredy Montero had a golden opportunity to pull a second goal back when Tiffert found him at the edge of the six yard box unmarked. The Colombian appeared to mistime his header and couldn’t muster the strength required to direct a strong effort on goal. It was caught easily by Saunders.
As the half progressed both sides settled in to the game and the match lost some of the chaotic energy that marked the opening 20 minutes. At minute 31 Seattle again got forward and earned a corner kick. On the ensuing set piece, the ball deflected out to Alonso at 25 yards who took a touch and fired on goal forcing a diving save out of Saunders.
Galaxy had a rare opportunity as the half approached 40 minutes when Mike Magee, on the left side, played a cross towards Edson Buddle with Gspurning slightly off his line. The cross was too high for Buddle; had it been accurate Buddle would have been shooting on an empty net.
Minutes before halftime referee Mark Geiger made one of his first major decisions when he chose not to call handball on Jhon Hurtado. Mike Magee found the ball and space just inside the box, took a touch and shot on goal. The ball appeared to hit Hurtado in the hand, though the defender was pulling his arm back towards his body from a raised position.
The sides went into half with Seattle up a goal, but still down two on aggregate.
The second half was not a minute underway when Fredy Montero just missed with his head after a long throw in from Zach Scott.
Sounders dream comeback got one goal closer after a spectacular diving header in the 57th minute from Zach Scott. The goal came off a corner kick with Christian Tiffert providing the service. Scott ran from the top of the box towards the near post, dove to meet the ball and deflected it in at the tightest of angles past Saunders.
Sounders fans erupted at the goal and the match looked ready to boil over in the following 10 minutes as Seattle streamed forward in search of the third, critical goal.
The match would come back to earth shortly when referee Geiger called penalty in the 67th for a handball on Adam Johansson. Robbie Keane, the two goal hero for LA in the first leg, got on the end of a ball in the box, took it to the end line before lifting it up and striking Johansson whose hands were too far from his body for him to be charging down the ball. The ball hit his left arm clearly and possibly then his right and Geiger pointed to the spot. Keane buried the ensuing spot kick in the right corner, as Gspurning dove left.
At the 73rd minute Sigi subbed on David Estrada and Mario Martinez as Seattle pushed forward, but the Galaxy goal had taken much of the edge from what had been a frenetic half.
Galaxy packed it in and subbed on defenders late and Sounders couldn’t find the key to get their third goal. A Jeff Parke header on the edge of full time and a David Estrada shot went wide and were saved.
The sides played out four minutes of added time as Seattle’s season came to a close.
A contingent of Sounders ran to the referee after the whistle which resulted in Alonso receiving his second yellow, resulting in a red. Sounders’ season ended in a flurry of complaints and abuse at a referee.
That was a pity because this was a splendid performance and that is what fans should hold onto till next March.
SEA – Eddie Johnson (Zach Scott) 12′
SEA – Zach Scott (Christian Tiffert) 57′
LA – Robbie Keane (PK) 68′
Seattle Sounders FC – Michael Gspurning, Adam Johansson (Mario Martinez 74), Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Zach Scott, Christian Tiffert, Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Steve Zakuani (Mauro Rosales 81), Fredy Montero (David Estrada 73), Eddie Johnson.
Substitutes Not Used: Marcus Hahnemann, Leo Gonzalez, Andy Rose, Sammy Ochoa.
TOTAL SHOTS: 13; SHOTS ON GOAL: 5; FOULS: 14; OFFSIDE: 5; CORNER KICKS: 5; SAVES: 1.
LA Galaxy – Josh Saunders, Sean Franklin, Omar Gonzalez, Tommy Meyer, Todd Dunivant, Mike Magee, David Beckham, Marcelo Sarvas, Christian Wilhelmsson (Juninho 62), Edson Buddle (Michael Stephens 84), Robbie Keane.
Substitutes Not Used: Brian Perk, Andrew Boyens, Bryan Gaul, Pat Noonan, Jose Villarreal.
TOTAL SHOTS: 5; SHOTS ON GOAL: 2; FOULS: 14; OFFSIDE: 8; CORNER KICKS: 2; SAVES: 3.
SEA – Eddie Johnson (caution) 68′
SEA – Osvaldo Alonso (caution) 74′
SEA – Osvaldo Alonso (caution) 90+5′
SEA – Osvaldo Alonso (ejection) 90+5′
Referee: Mark Geiger
Referee’s Assistants: Adam Wienckowski, Gregory Baker
4th Official: Ismail Elfath
Time of Game: 1:53
Weather: Rainy and 48 degrees