Not only did the LA Galaxy advance to their third MLS Cup in four years by defeating Seattle Sounders FC in the Western Conference Championship, but LA also qualified 2013/2014 CONCACAF Champions League on Sunday.
The 2013/2014 edition of the tournament will be LA's fourth straight appearance in the continental competition. LA are currently in the Quarterfinals of the 2012/2013 tournament where they will face Costa Rican side Herediano.
Below is a list of MLS' American entrants for the 2013/2014 CCL and how they qualified...
LA Galaxy (MLS Cup Finalists)
Houston Dynamo (MLS Cup Finalsts)
San Jose Earthquakes (Supporters' Shield winners)
Sporting Kansas City (US Open Cup winners)
SEATTLE -- LA Galaxy captain Landon Donovan may have sat out Sunday's 2-1 defeat with Seattle Sounders FC that saw LA advance to the MLS Cup 4-2 on aggregate, but Donovan is confident that he'll be ready when the final rolls around on Dec. 1.
Donovan's status for the match in Seattle was always a question mark as he was unable to resume exercising until Friday after suffering tightness in his right hamstring during the first leg at The Home Depot Center a week prior. Without Donovan on the field on Sunday, the Galaxy struggled at times to create opportunties going forward amid an early onslought by Seattle, but were ultimately able to hang on to advance to MLS Cup.
But despite not participating in Sunday's Conference Championship clincher, Donovan believes that if the circumstances were different, he could have played.
"I think if this was two weeks from now we would have tried to play," said Donovan. "No question."
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena was quick to echo his captain's sentiments.
"If it was a Cup Final tonight, Landon probably would have played," said Arena. "But we wanted to try to do the smart thing and not put him out for the rest of the season.”
After erring on the side of caution with Donovan's injury during the second leg in Seattle, the Galaxy are hopeful that they'll have their captain back at full strength when they host the Houston Dynamo on Dec. 1 at The Home Depot Center.
"You always miss Landon, he’s probably the best playoff player that MLS has ever seen," said defender Todd Dunivant. "He’s clutch and comes up big in these kind of games, so we’re hoping to get him back for the final."
SEATTLE – Robbie Keane may have scored a goal for the LA Galaxy, but perhaps no player was more effective on the night for the LA Galaxy than midfielder Marcelo Sarvas.
Filling in for the injured Juninho at the start, Sarvas was, the most effective player for Galaxy in a first half dominated by Seattle. Throughout the opening 45 minutes, Sarvas’ ability to win first and second balls as well as make timely challenges help LA survive an onslaught by the Sounders. During the second half, Sarvas continued his stellar defensive play in the second half, ultimately ending the match with eight interceptions and seven clearances on the night.
Sarvas addresses his play below…
(On his great play in tonight's game...)
SARVAS: "I was just trying to do my job. I have the type of personality to try to keep the guys up and I think it worked very well. Of course we knew coming here it was going to be a hard game. Seattle played a fantastic game today and it was a great game."
(On his defensive play...)
SARVAS: "I have to destroy you know. I have to run off the ball and destroy, so I think I did my job."
(On how the first 20 minutes of the game got away from LA and how they regrouped...)
SARVAS: "The first 20 minutes of the first half was very hard. They came and scored their very first goal in like 13 minutes, and also their fans put them more in the game. We had to calm down, but it was a really hard game."
SEATTLE— Referee Mark Geiger addressed his decision to award a penalty kick to the LA Galaxy’s Robbie Keane after LA advanced to the MLS Cup Final on a 4-2 aggregate victory.
Below is an excerpt from Geiger, who was asked about the difference of the decision to award a penalty to Keane for a handball on Adam Johansson as opposed to his decision to not award a penalty to Mike Magee for an apparent hand ball by Seattle's Jhon Kennedy Hurtado.
“The hand was in an unnatural playing position, and he was making himself bigger by taking space. His arms were outside of his body. [Jhon Kennedy] Hurtado’s arm was next to his body, he was not making himself bigger, and this was a case of “ball-to-hand.”
Notes from the LA Galaxy's 4-2 aggregate victory over Seattle Sounders FC in Western Conference Championship
SEATTLE - A few notes from the LA Galaxy's 4-2 Western Conference Championship victory over Seattle Sounders FC
*Robbie Keane's penalty kick goal in the 68th minute was his fifth postseason goal and his 22nd in all competitions this season.
*Keane has scored in each of his last three postseason game, last player to do that was Landon Donovan in 2011.
*Keane is the first player other than Landon Donovan to convert a penalty for the Galaxy in the postseason other than Landon Donovan was Carlos Ruiz on Sept. 25, 2002 in Game 1 of MLS Cup Quarterfinals against the Kansas City Wizards.
*The last player to score more than five goals in a postseason for LA was Carlos Ruiz, who had eight in 2002
*This is the first MLS Cup Final appearaance for ten of LA's 30 players on the roster.
*Nine of the 30 players on LA have been a part of LA's three MLS Cup Final appearances in the last four years.
*The LA Galaxy have now qualified for the MLS Cup a record eight times and appeared three out of the last four years.
*The crowd of 44,575 at CenturyLink Field set n MLS playoff record for highest attendance in a non-final in MLS postseason history and the sixth largest crowd in MLS postseason history.
*Osvaldo Alonso earned a second yellow card at the closing minutes, which will carry over to the 2013 season opener.
The LA Galaxy will take on the Houston Dynamo in the 2012 MLS Cup Final at 1:30 p.m. PT at The Home Depot Center.
The MLS Cup will take place at either The Home Depot Center or CenturyLink Field in Seattle after the Houston Dynamo advanced from the Eastern Conference with a win over D.C. United.
The winner of the Western Conference Championship between the LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders FC will host the Cup Final on Dec. 1 by virtue of their regular season point totals, each of which were higher than Houston.
The Dynamo, who were the lowest seed in the Eastern Conference, advanced to the MLS Cup Final after drawing D.C. United 1-1 at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. in the second leg, sealing a 4-2 win on aggregate. Houston defeated the Eastern Conference's highest seeded team Sporting Kansas City in the Western Conference Semifinal as well as the Chicago Fire in the Knockout Round in the before defeating United.
SEATTLE -- We're just a few hours away from tonight's Western Conference Championship Second Leg between the LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders FC.
Remember, the Galaxy hold a 3-0 aggregate lead on Seattle and away goals DO NOT count in this competition. Over 43,000 are expected at rainy and cold CenturyLink Field tonight as Seattle look to fight their way back into the series and prevent LA from advancing to MLS Cup.
Also, the Galaxy will be wearing white tonight against Seattle's rave green.
As we get close to game time, check out some my observations and links to get you to kick off...
*The forecast calls for temperatures in the low 50s with plenty of rain, but according to the Galaxy that suits them just fine.
*Key to LA's success in the first leg was the play of goalkeeper Josh Saunders, who will likely be under plenty of pressure on Sunday night.
*Tommy Meyer will get his first look at the cauldron that is CenturyLink Field and he is relishing the challenge of playing in front of the Seattle crowd.
*For a more general look at the game, LAGalaxy.com staff writer Larry Morgan offers his game preview.
Omar Gonzalez/Tommy Meyer vs. Fredy Montero/Eddie Johnson
The most important match up of the night as LA's in-form centerbacks look to hold down a Seattle offensive tandem that is desperate to help Seattle claw back into the series
Christian Wilhelmsson vs. Zach Scott
According to Sigi Schmid after the second leg, the Galaxy "found a lot of joy" against Scott in the first leg and expect Wilhelmsson and right back Sean Franklin to attack him at will.
The two veteran coaches are facing a major battle of wits as Schmid attempts to break down Arena's organized Galaxy side that will be eager to hit Seattle on the break.
PREDICTED LINEUP: Saunders; Franklin, Gonzalez, Meyer, Dunivant; Magee, Sarvas, Beckham, Wilhelmsson; Buddle, Keane
*Lastly, check out my Three Points to the game
MLSsoccer.com has issued a pair of video previews from both sides of the aisle ahead of tonight's Western Conference Championship Second Leg between LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders FC.
Check them out below.
Seattle Sounders FC: Eddie Johnson, Brad Evans and Sigi Schmid
LA Galaxy: Todd Dunivant, Marcelo Sarvas and Bruce Arena
Whether Seattle Sounders FC will be able to call upon star midfielder Mauro Rosales for Sunday’s Western Conference Semifinal Second Leg is still up in the air, but the LA Galaxy are prepared, should the Argentine be ready to play.
In his first year with Seattle, the Argentine has provided an important cog in the midfield for Seattle either closer to goal or on the flanks, tallying an impressive 13 assists on the year. He has also had great success against the Galaxy this season, tallying three assists in three appearances against LA this season—all three coming in Seattle’s two victories at CenturyLink Field when the Sounders outscored LA a combined 6-0 in the two matches.
However, the Argentine’s productivity tailed off at the end of the season with the Argentine failing to notch an assist since Seattle’s Aug. 25 win over Chivas before picking up a right hamstring strain in the Western Conference Semifinal First Leg against Real Salt Lake.
Should Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid choose to throw on Rosales as the Sounders look to overcome a three goal deficit against LA, the Galaxy are keenly aware that they must be wary of the Argentine.
“Rosales has been out for a few weeks, so we’ll see how he does when he comes back in, but he’s a good player, he’s an important player for them,” said midfielder David Beckham. “They like to lump balls forward, get players in the box and cross balls because a lot of their goals have come from crosses and headers this year. I think we have…four players [in the back] playing very well. [Omar Gonzalez and Tommy Meyer] have been playing well and it’s up to us to overcome what they throw at us.”
One of the players, who will likely be tasked with defending the Argentine will be LA left back Todd Dunivant, who admits he faces a stiff test if Rosales plays on Sunday.
“Rosales is as good as it gets in this league in terms of wide players and getting service in the box,” said Dunivant. “He’s got double digit assists and he’s really connected well with especially Eddie Johnson this year, but he’s connected well with Montero too. He’s kind of the engine that keeps them going and missing them as hurt them a lot.”
SEATTLE – On Sunday night, the LA Galaxy know that to qualify for the MLS Cup Final, they must not only get through a hyper-motivated Seattle Sounders FC side and silence the raucous CenturyLink Field crowd, but also battle through the Seattle rain.
When the Galaxy arrived in the Pacific Northwest on Saturday afternoon, the weather was prototypical Seattle fare with a cold wind and steady rain. By the time kick off rolls around on Sunday evening, the forecast calls for much of the same with rain and temperatures in the low-50s expected.
“It’s exactly what we expected; you know what you’re getting up here,” said Todd Dunivant on Saturday after the team landed in Seattle. “I don’t think it favors one team or another, but it is what it is.”
How players react to the cold and wet weather remains to be seen, but even the Galaxy players from warm climes admit that they were ready for the frigid temps.
“We knew that it’d be cold and there would be wind,” said midfielder Marcelo Sarvas. “It’s actually good weather to play soccer, it’s not the best for me,” but it is good weather. It’s not hot, it’s comfortable.”
While the cold may not be ideal for the midfielder from Brazil, Englishman David Beckham is excited about the prospect of playing in the wet weather.
“I love it, I love playing in the rain. I hope it is cold, I hope it’s wet and it’ll be a nice night hopefully,” said Beckham on Friday. “It’s a lot easier playing in rain then it is running around in the heat. I’m sure it will [rain], the forecast calls is rain so we’ll see.
Beckham isn’t alone in his excitement as forward Robbie Keane believes that the wet field could serve the Galaxy well.
“If it’s raining, that’s something that I’m used to,” said forward Robbie Keane. “It won’t really affect me, but I like playing when it’s raining because the pitch is a lot faster and moves the ball a lot quicker and the way that we play, I think that could suit us because we like to get the ball down and play quick, so that could only help us. Of course, they’ll have an advantage because they’re used to playing on that pitch on a regular basis, but for us, that’s the way we play—quick and fast—so I think it could help us."