SEATTLE— It wasn’t the most likely of scenarios, in fact it was perhaps the most unlikely that The Home Depot Center would host the MLS Cup for the second straight year in a row, but after Sunday’s Conference Championship results, that is exactly what will take place.
With the final being hosted by the highest seed in the postseason, LA’s early season loll seemed to make it unlikely that The HDC would host the final. When the MLS Cup Playoffs began, only one scenario promised a Cup Final in Carson as the Eastern Conference’s fifth seed the Houston Dynamo needed to navigate the East while LA needed to advance through the Western Conference.
On Sunday, both teams had advanced past D.C. United and the Sounders respectively to set up a rematch of the 2011 MLS Cup between Houston and LA. The Galaxy defeated Houston 1-0 on that rainy night last November, but will take on the Dynamo this year at 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 1.
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena, defender Todd Dunivant, midfielder David Beckham and forward Robbie Keane each discusses hosting the MLS Cup at The HDC below…
ARENA: “You know, we want some good weather, we want to be on a good field so we accomplished that and how we got to play better. We can’t complain now going into the final. We’ve had a lot of difficult games over the last month so hopefully over the next couple of weeks; we can get ourselves in the right kind of form for the final.”
DUNIVANT: “It’s crazy, the only that we were going to host is if fifth seeded Houston was going to go all the way through. Sure enough they did and that’s great. They’re a team that’s hot right now and hot teams in the playoffs are the teams that win and that’s why they’re in the final, they deserve to be in the final. We’re going to have our work cut out for us and it’s going to be a difficult game, but they’re certainly going to point to last year’s 1-0 game and look to rectify that and we’re going to have our work cut out for us.”
BECKHAM: “It’s kind of amazing that we’re at home again; I still can’t get my head around it. It’s obviously nice, it’s good to be in front of our own fans and they’ll have a lot of fans like they did last year. It’s nice to play at home and it’s a lot easier than playing in another ground that we’re not used to, but it can also have it’s difficulties as well. We’ve got two weeks now to prepare so we’ll be ready.”
KEANE: “I don’t think anybody predicted this was going to happen. It’s amazing, in the same stands, in our stadium again. I think the chances at the start were very, very slim so listen, we’ll take it. Most important thing is we’re in the final. We didn’t pick where it’s going to be, we just have to keep winning games, and we’ve done that. Full credit to the players, it was a tough start of the season for everybody and we weren’t playing as well as that we know we can do. Football, as people always say, is a game of two halves, so the second half of the season we’ve been superb.”
SEATTLE -- The mood in the LA Galaxy locker room said it all after the club advanced to the MLS Cup by defeating Seattle Sounders FC in the Western Conference Championship 4-2 on aggregate -- LA may be in the final, but the job is by no means complete.
Below Bruce Arena discusses LA's advancement to MLS Cup, the play of Juninho, Robbie Keane's penalty and more
(On his general game impressions…)
ARENA: “Well we didn’t play particularly well tonight; there’s no question about that. We did what we came here to do, to advance into the MLS Cup finals, so that was achieved. Obviously the conditions were difficult, with the surface and the rain and Seattle played quite well, no question about that. Having said all that, we won this competition 4-2 and deserve to move forward. We’ve got a couple weeks to get ready for a real good team. Houston’s in terrific form right now, so it’s going to be a heck of a challenging final.”
(On whether he feels his team escaped…)
ARENA: “There were a lot of tense moments. No, I don’t feel we escaped anything. We won 4-2 on aggregate; what’s there to escape from?”
(On whether the penalty kick converted to a goal by Keane was a legitimate penalty…)
ARENA: “I didn’t see it, so I couldn’t tell you. But even if we don’t get the penalty, we still advance 3-2 then.”
(On Keane and on the performance of the two clubs…)
ARENA: “A game like tonight, you need someone to make a play. No question, we were not in good form tonight. We didn’t play particularly well. We couldn’t pass the ball. Seattle battled great. They competed hard and won a bunch of second balls and put us under a lot of pressure.
(On his thoughts on the Sounders…)
ARENA: “We prevailed. We knew it was going to be difficult coming in here, and it certainly was. I give our team credit for advancing, and certainly give Seattle a lot of credit. Sigi [Schmid] does a terrific job with this team and they can continue to be one of the premier franchises in the MLS.”
(On what Seattle did to make things difficult for his team…)
ARENA: “I just think that they could take a lot of risk. They’re a little bit more comfortable on this surface than we are, but they pressured us for every ball. They positioned themselves better and were much more aggressive for second balls. Basically, on the night, they outworked us.”
(On Marcelo Sarvas’ performance and on Juninho and Landon Donovan….)
“It was a solid performance. We really missed Juninho, and I thought Juninho did a terrific job in his 25 to 30 minutes – I don’t know exactly what he played – probably 25 minutes. He did a very good job. We wanted to be careful with him tonight, as we did with Landon [Donovan].
(On the first 20 minutes of the game…)
ARENA: “Yeah, we didn’t do well. We didn’t pass well tonight, we didn’t win second balls, and that was the difference. You know, you’ve got to give Seattle credit. They’re behind three goals and they’ve gotta lay it all on the line and be very aggressive and be a little bit risky, which they were with their line. And the conditions certainly helped, because it was a little bit difficult, passing the ball, and you could see our players are not fully confident on the surface, but that’s our problem, not theirs.”
(On what he said to his team after the game…)
ARENA: “I didn’t say a whole lot. We know we didn’t play particularly well. We knew it would be challenging, and the objective here was to advance to the MLS Cup Final and that was accomplished.”
(On his season and his team…)
ARENA: “It’s been a really challenging season and it’s taken a lot of character and talent to get where we are today. Not many teams would have positioned themselves… After 14 games, we basically conceded the Supporter Shield, 14 games into the season. The objective then was to get into the playoffs. We went on a run that was fabulous. Last 17 games of the season, we had 34 points. Thank god you guys aren’t smart enough to figure that out so we could kind of do it quietly and get ourselves going again. We’re back in the Final and hopefully we can have an improved performance from tonight because the team I saw play in DC today was a damn good team.”
(On LA getting a foothold after Seattle dominated the first 20 minutes…)
ARENA: “We got a few passes together which helped. We did a little bit better defensively. On the night, I thought Seattle’s aggressiveness was terrific and they put us on a lot of pressure over the 94 minutes of the game.”
(On whether it was the biggest test LA has had this year…)
ARENA: “I wouldn’t say that, they’re all tough games, but the two teams in the final beat a lot of good teams in the league so it should make for a terrific final.”
(On the parity in MLS…)
ARENA: “Obviously, a lot of people would have thought that the four and five seeds would reach the final, but I think that clearly the Galaxy in the west, we’re in an unbelievably difficult division, I think. It’s a lot of good teams and any are capable of advancing. And Houston, as we’ve seen over the last month or so has really come into great form and they have a really terrific team, it’s going to be a great final.”
The LA Galaxy weathered the storm posed by Seattle Sounders FC and will return to the MLS Cup for the third time in four seasons on Dec. 1 when they take on the Houston Dynamo.
As we continue to analyze Sunday night's 2-1 Seattle victory at CenturyLink Field, be sure to catch up on my Three Points of the game and as always leave your thoughts and comments in the section below.
For some more analysis of Sunday's game, check out Joe Tutino and Ralph Perez break down the game with their postgame analysis.
Lastly, MLSsoccer.com's editors Nick Firchau, Greg Lalas and Simon Borg reflect on Sunday's match in "ExtraTime After Hours." Watch that below...
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