CARSON, Calif. – A 52nd-minute goal from Marcelo Sarvas was the lone tally as the L.A. Galaxy beat the Sounders 1-0 in the first leg of the Western Conference finals on Sunday at the StubHub Center.
Here are my first impressions:
– Seattle’s game plan worked – for a half
Without Osvaldo Alonso, who was neither in the lineup nor on the bench thanks to an injury picked up in the Dallas series, winning the possession battle was always going to be a stretch.
So in the first half, the Sounders surrendered the ball on their own terms.
Even if L.A. had 62 percent of the possession in the first half, it was forced into the wide areas on the field, leading to a steady stream of crosses for hulking center backs Chad Marshall and Zach Scott and aggressive goalkeeper Stefan Frei to clean up.
Micheal Azira, Alonso’s replacement, stayed rooted atop the Sounders back line to help snuff out attacks.
After the break, though, an untimely bounce of Marshall re-directed Sarvas’ shot into the back of the net and undid all that hard work. And the Sounders spend the rest of the match trying to staunch the bleeding.
– Don’t blame the goalkeeper
It could have been worse if not for the crossbar that kept out Juninho’s second-half free kick and another standout performance from Frei.
The Seattle goalkeeper was named one of three finalists for MLS comeback of the year on Thursday and showcased why on Sunday.
He dove low and to his right to thwart Gyasi Zardes early in the first half and went the other way to deny Robbie Rogers on the stroke of halftime.
Galaxy ‘keeper Jaime Penedo was solid on the other end of the field, as well, pulling off a double save on both Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey from close range in the 20th minute and denying the latter again early in the second half.
The Seattle stopper was unlucky in on Sarvas’ goal, and his efforts as a whole are a reason his team still has a puncher’s chance back home.
– Be careful what you wish for
The ultimate goal from the Sounders in this first leg, as both Seattle coach Sigi Schmid and his players have hammered home this week, was to return to CenturyLink Field within striking distance of L.A.
Like it or not, as pragmatic and gritty as it might have been, Seattle was in damage control almost from the start.
Without Alonso, and despite sustained L.A. pressure throughout the second half, the Sounders are still very much alive ahead of next weekend’s second leg.
But with the away-goals tiebreaker in effect, a single Galaxy goal will put Seattle in serious danger next Sunday.
And for the third time in three games of this postseason, the attack that set the single-season club record for goals remained isolated in a defensive formation.