Seattle Sounders 1 : 1 LA Galaxy
By Kara McDermott
Sounders FC will entertain the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday night in a 4th v 5th play-in game.
In honor of fan appreciation night at Century Link field, the Sounders’ faithful were treated to a draw with the LA Galaxy after a run of bad losses from their home side as the last game of the season ended in a 1-1 scoreline in front of 66,216.
There were two heroes for the Sounders of the night: Clint Dempsey and west-side linesman Greg Barkey. The former finally produced a goal for Seattle to justify his designated player status and the latter missed calling a clear and obvious goal for LA in the 42nd minute.
Attempting no doubt to shake up his floundering side, Schmidt played a creative lineup that would seem on the surface to collapse under the weight of the number of center midfielders. They weren’t all playing in the middle though. Dempsey was pulled out of the front line to form the top of a the midfield diamond with Osvaldo Alonso behind. To round out the sides, Schmidt pulled Brad Evans out to the left and Adam Moffat on the right.
The experiment had a rocky start as the Sounders struggled to hold their shape and the play became condensed. Even Evans, receiving the ball in the inside, turned to distribute the ball to the line only to find no one in the place he was supposed to be.
The success of the style though was that the Sounders were able to hold a large possession advantage over the Galaxy and it finally paid off in the 30th minute.
Lamar Neagle, who once again came to be the Sounders’ main workhorse on the offensive line, crossed a ball from the right side of the field. Goalkeeper Jaime Penedo stepped off his line to defend, but the ball flew above his hands. Dempsey, running deep on the left side, got to the ball near the touchline and redirected it with the outside of his foot past defender Omar Gonzalez into the opening that Penedo left in his goal.
Though the Sounders had a decided spring to their step after drawing first blood, LA created two answering opportunities that, respectively, could and should have changed the outcome of the match.
The first came in the 40th minute. Alonso attempted to bring down a ping-ponging ball in the box with the top of an outstretched foot.
Not having enough of his body caught up with the ball, he merely trapped it for a stalking Robbie Rogers, who came up behind and attempted a shot. Goalkeeper Michael Gspurning quickly raised his hands to deflect it out to the right.
A few minutes later came the corner kick that will likely be used as a justified lightning rod for the goal-line technology movement. Landon Donovan sailed the ball from the left to the far post. Gonzalez got a textbook header that put the ball into the mouth of the goal. Alonso spit it back out again, but it was clear from the pressbox and the replays that the ball crossed the line with at least two widths to spare.
Linesman Barkey didn’t call it and neither did center Mark Geiger, so play quickly resumed as the Sounders tried to transition out of the defense.
After half time, LA made one significant change in their midfield by switching the sides of their outer midfielders, bringing Rogers to the left side of the field to match against Evans and and DeAndre Yedlin and pairing Marcelo Sarvas against Seattle’s Moffat and Marc Burch.
The resulting half was a more spread game and a shift in the tide for LA. Though Seattle maintained the possession advantage, LA doubled their scoring chances while nearly halfing Seattle’s. The Sounders’ center defense duo of Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Djimi Traore held a strong line, but the Galaxy finally cracked it in the 78th minute, just as Mauro Rosales was being subbed on for Neagle.
LA created a scrum in the box, with a short header from Gonzalez to Jose Villarreal, who then headed it down to Robbie Keane for a teed-up shot. He took advantage of it and volleyed the ball past Gspurning for the tying goal.
In this the Sounders revealed one of the most prevelant issues on their defensive third. The back line tracks back behind the ball, but leave space in front of them for second and third attempts. A flat line and midfielders slow to recover will continue to a vulnerable spot for Seattle, particularly as they enter playoffs.
Seattle will start their fifth playoff campaign on Wednesday. The result tonight gives them a home field advantage as they play a one-off contest with Colorado at 7:30 p.m. The Rapids played Vancouver to a 3-0 loss tonight off of a hat trick from Camilo Sanvezzo.
It was paltry comfort for Seattle’s northern I-5 rival, who failed to qualify for playoffs. If the Sounders beat Colorado, they will face off against their southern neighbor Portland, who are entering post-season for the first time this year.
LA: Jaime Penedo, Sean Franklin, Omar Gonzalez, Kofi Opare, Greg Cochrane, Michael Stephens, Robbie Rogers, Marcelo Sarvas, Gyasi Zardes, Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan
Subs not used: Brian Rowe, Laurent Courtoise, Rafael Garcia, Hector Jimenez, Tommy Meyer, Leonardo, Jose Villarreal
Head Coach: Sigi Schmidt
SEA: Michael Gspurning, DeAndre Yedlin, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Djimi Traore, Marc Burch, Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso, Clint Dempsey, Adam Moffat, Eddie Johnson, Lamar Neagle
Subs not used: Marcus Hahnemann, Alex Caskey, Patrick Ianni, Mauro Rosales, Andy Rose, Zach Scott, Eriq Zavaleta