CARSON, Calif. – Seattle will have to wait at least another week for its first-ever Supporters’ Shield.
But a dramatic rally out of a two-goal deficit means it keeps the tiebreaker edge on L.A. ahead of next Saturday’s regular-season finale at CenturyLink Field.
Clint Dempsey and Lamar Neagle each netted second half goals as the Sounders fought from behind to earn a 2-2 draw with the Galaxy on Sunday night at the StubHub Center.
Here are my first impressions:
– Seattle’s fighting spirit should be commended
Seattle hasn’t won at the StubHub Center since 2009. L.A. carried a 6-3-4 advantage in the all-time series into Sunday’s match and knocked the Sounders out of the MLS Cup playoffs in 2010 and 2012.
As much as the Sounders insist that this is a new team, that every season is different, staring down their old nemesis with the Shield on the line was bound to raise some old demons.
And if that didn’t do the trick, two Galaxy goals on each side of halftime certainly could’ve finished the job.
Instead, Seattle kept pushing forward, kept striving for the moment that could turn things around.
It came in the 68th minute, as Dempsey pounced on a Martins flick and hammered the ball into the back of the net. Four minutes later, with the Galaxy still reeling, Neagle struck on the counter to even the score at two.
– Another familiar foe haunted them Sunday night
More recently, the Sounders have been tormented by defensive miscues.
Late in what had been a back-and-forth first half, Seattle midfielder Brad Evans nodded a clearance right at the feet of Galaxy mid Baggio Husidic at the top of the box.
Husidic dragged a low shot past Stefan Frei into the corner of the net in the 45th minute. L.A. took a lead and unexpected momentum into the break.
The breakdown seemed to rattle the Seattle back line, and Zach Scott struggled to clear his lines in the early minutes of the second half.
Five minutes into it, Marcelo Sarvas finished off a corner kick to put L.A – temporarily – in control.
– Both these attacks are really, really good
It didn’t take long to appreciate what makes this Galaxy team so strong – just watch the way its attackers play off each other.
Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes are constantly looking for seams to run into, pulling the defense around. Sometimes, other attackers will make follow-up runs into the space they created. Other times, they’re content with passing the ball around, waiting for just the right moment.
Opposing back lines can never relax, especially when Husidic and Sarvas are controlling possession in the midfield.
Seattle’s attack, meanwhile, was held in check for 68 minutes. But it took just four of them to showcase its class.
In the 68th minute, Martins found Dempsey – as he has so often this season – and Dempsey found the back of the net. Prior to this season, the single-season Sounders scoring record had been 14, set by Eddie Johnson in 2012. Martins (17) and now Dempsey (15) have both surpassed it in the same year.
In the 72nd minute, Neagle, who has epitomized Seattle’s depth going forward, made it 2-2 in the blink of an eye.
– Individual battle lines were drawn
The first half was all about setting the tone – for this match and for ones yet to come.
On the left flank, Sounders right back DeAndre Yedlin kept a wary eye on Galaxy attacker Landon Donovan, backtracking but keeping him contained.
The opposing strike pairs tested the defenses with teasing runs, feeling for weak spots.
In the center of the pitch, veteran midfielders pushed forward and back, side-to-side, vying for midfield supremacy.
Chad Marshall stood firm at the back for Seattle, and Omar Gonzalez did the same for L.A. – at least until he picked up a second yellow card late in the second half, one that means he will miss next weekend’s rematch at CenturyLink.
Starting next weekend in Seattle and potentially continuing through the Western Conference playoffs, these two teams could meet three more times with a trophy on the line.
Sunday was one thrilling opening act.