The LA Galaxy knew on Wednesday evening that they'll be making their fourth straight Western Conference Championship appearance in 2012, and now they know who their opponent is.
LA will take on Seattle Sounders FC, who are making their first ever appearance in the West Conference Championship. The Sounders advanced by defeating Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference Semifinal match up as Honduran midfielder Mario Martinez scored a stunning goal in the 81st minute to give the Sounders the victory at Rio Tinto Stadium as well as the aggregate lead.
The first leg will take place on Sunday, Nov. 11 at The Home Depot Center before traveling to CenturyLink Field for the second leg on Nov. 18.
The Sounders won the season series with the Galaxy going 2-1-0, earning both of their wins at CenturyLink, defeating LA 2-0 on May 2 and 4-0 on Aug. 5. The Galaxy won the final game of the season against the Sounders 1-0 at The HDC. While Seattle have the series lead this regular season, the Galaxy have had success against the Sounders in the postseason, defeating the Sounders in the 2010 Western Conference Semifinal.
Regardless of the match up, Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant is proud of LA's four consecutive West Final appearances.
"It's a testament to keeping this group together. Successful teams in this league are successful teams, consistent teams and teams that have stability. We've had the same core group for four seasons and the results have spoken for themselves. This is what happens when you get a good group together and you keep them together," Dunivant told LA Galaxy Insider on Thursday. "It's a testament to our club and everybody for doing that because it could have been easy to push the panic button at 3-8-2 and start to blow this thing up but they didn't do that. I think we rewarded them with the best second half of the season of any team in the league and now we're pushing through the playoffs. It's great for the whole organization."
After seeing off the San Jose Earthquakes in the Western Conference Semifinal, the LA Galaxy will spend Thursday awaiting their opponent in the Western Conference Championship.
Seattle Sounders FC takes on Real Salt Lake on Thursday evening at 7 p.m. PT at Rio Tinto Stadium in the decisive second leg. The series is currently scoreless after goalkeepers Nick Rimando and Michael Gspurning combined for nine saves at CenturyLink Field last week.
The winner will take on the Galaxy in LA’s fourth consecutive appearance in the Western Conference Championship, but before LA can prepare for that match, the Galaxy will place a keen eye on Thursday’s match.
“We’re definitely going to watch it, but honestly, it’s a real toss-up. They’re two really good teams and they both had good seasons and finished very closely to each other,” Defender Todd Dunivant told LA Galaxy Insider on Thursday morning. “If I was betting man, I wouldn’t bet this game because I honestly don’t know and honestly have no preference, they’re both good teams and we’ve battled with both of these teams over the last four years, it’s going to be a great series either way.”
During the 2012 Regular Season, the Galaxy went 1-2-0 against both Salt Lake and Seattle. Regular season results aside, LA have had postseason success against the two teams as LA defeated Seattle in the Conference Semifinal in 2010. The Galaxy’s history with RSL, however, is much longer as Salt Lake knocked off the Galaxy in the 2009 MLS Cup Final in Seattle before LA defeated Salt Lake in the 2011 Western Conference Championship.
But what issues do the two teams pose for LA this season?
“They both present problems, they both have injury concerns which at this time year a lot of teams will,” said Dunivant. “Obviously, with Seattle, they have Johnson and Montero healthy, they’re as dangerous a duo that there is in this league. Rosales is another one that has been hobbled, but he’s the main source of all their goals, they have a lot and they're good defensively.”
“Same goes for Salt Lake,” Dunivant added. “It starts with their defense and they also have a lot of dangerous players in the attack, [Javier] Morales is unpredictable, [Fabian] Espindola, and [Alvaro] Saborío are great goal scorers. There are a lot of similarities between both teams to be honest.”
The first leg of the Western Conference Championship begins at 6 p.m. PT at The Home Depot Center while the second leg will take place on Sunday, Nov. 18 at 6 p.m. PT at the winner of RSL/Seattle.
Three LA Galaxy Players have been nominated for Futbol MLS' Latino del Año or "Latino of the Year."
Brazilian midfielders Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas are joined by defender Omar Gonzalez as well as 21 other Latino players for the 24 player, six group contest. The top two seeds from each group advance to a playoff that will decide a Latino player of the year on December 3.
Gonzalez is in Group C with Seattle Sounders forward Fredy Montero, San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Marvin Chavez, and FC Dallas' David Ferreira. Juninho is ranked as the top seed in Group E with New England Revolution forward Jerry Bengston, Real Salt Lake's Fabian Espindola, and Philadelphia Union midfielder Michael Farfan. Meawnhile, Marcelo Sarvas is in Group G with RSL's Alvaro Saborio, New York Red Bulls midfielder Rafael Marquez, and Chivas USA midfielder Oswaldo Minda.
A day after notching a brace against the San Jose Earthquakes that helped propel the LA Galaxy into the Western Conference Championship for the fourth consecutive year, forward Robbie Keane was crowned as the 2012 Castrol Index Top Player.
The Castrol Index is MLS’ official performance index that assesses each player and judges how positive or negative their impact has on their individual team’s success.
Keane finished with a total of 854 points in 2,520 minutes of action during the regular season, edging out the 2011 Castrol Index Top Player Chris Wondolowski by 18 points. The Irishman earned the nod over Wondolowski due to his success in target shots, winning duels, good passes, and the fact that only 7% of his goals came on penalty kicks compared to 23% for Wondolowski.
The nod for Keane is no surprise after Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena was quick to laud the Irishman on Wednesday.
"Robbie, since he’s come back from the European Championships has been the best player in the league," said Arena after LA's 3-1 win. "He’s been great. He scores big goals, he’s competitive, he’s bought into MLS, he likes L.A., he’s a great leader on our team. When the whistle blows he’s ready to play, he’s a real great competitor."
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Bruce Arena and the LA Galaxy may have been considered by many to be the underdogs heading into the Western Conference Semifinal, but that is not how the Galaxy head coach saw things.
LA became the first team to beat the San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium this season with a dominating performance as Robbie Keane notched a pair of goals before Mike Magee put the Galaxy ahead for good, with LA earning a 3-1 win on the night and a 3-2 victory on aggregate.
Below are the thoughts of LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena...
(On his thoughts on the win tonight...)
ARENA: “Well certainly a good win for our group. I think it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t just take a minute to just congratulate San Jose on their year. They’re really the champions in the league. When you go through the entire season, even though I’m not a great believer in the way they have the Supporters’ Shield, but they earned it and they’re champions in the league and we’re still participating in another competition called the MLS Cup. So congratulations to them, but I think we have a damn good team, and arguably the best team in the league, and we have a chance to prove it in the next series again. Great victory for our team tonight, I think they played pretty well. A little bit sloppy in the second half, but I think San Jose deserves credit for that, the way they hung in there and never quit and attacked us and made things difficult."
(On his center backs…)
ARENA: “They’ve played well. Tommy’s growing into that position and obviously had a good performance tonight.”
(On the team’s journey this season…)
ARENA: We did, but we’ve been the best team in this league since July. I’m happy nobody’s noticed that, which is always good. We were able to hide under the radar a little bit. We’ve been real good since July. We actually were pretty comfortable that we could come in here and win. We were confident about that. We certainly screwed up the other night at home, but we played quite well. Actually, the game the other night gave us the confidence that we could come in here and win because we felt that it was a good matchup for us.”
(On what was different this time against San Jose…)
ARENA: “I think every game could have gone either way, but to San Jose’s credit, it went their way most of the time. The difference tonight is getting three goals in the first half, and finishing our chances, and being a little bit more solid defensively. Although, I think in this second half at the end, we got a little tired and made some mistakes, but you’re not getting the fourth goal that they were handing to us. We were very sloppy in trying to just kill the game off over the last 15 minutes. We had a good performance tonight and certainly our guys deserve a lot of credit. But at the same time, I do want to congratulate San Jose for a great year.”
(On the impact that Victor Bernárdez’s injury had on the game…)
ARENA: ‘It contributes; it’s all part of it though. Injuries happen. He’s been an important part of their team and it certainly didn’t help them, but I didn’t think it was the difference in the game.”
(On LA’s first half success...)
ARENA: “We were smart. We were strong in the early going, yet patient and the first goal was obviously important. The second goal, I think San Jose put their heads down, and the third goal obviously was a killer. But to their credit, when they got the goal in the 82nd minute by Gordon, they fought real hard to try to get that second goal and try to send it into another 30 minutes.”
SANTA Clara, Calif. – Omar Gonzalez’s past with Steven Lenhart is well-documented, but in Wednesday night’s Western Conference Semifinal Second Leg, it was the LA Galaxy center back that had the last laugh as LA defeated the San Jose Earthquakes, 3-1 and 3-2 on aggregate.
Gonzalez and Lenhart tangled repeatedly throughout the match, with the two each being awarded yellow cards for their battles – Gonzalez earning his in the 41st minute for a forearm to the back of Lenhart and the Earthquakes striker picking one up a minute later after shoving Gonzalez to the pitch.Histrionics aside, Gonzalez was dominated the Earthquakes forward from start to finish as his size and quickness frequently proved too much for the physical San Jose forward. Perhaps Gonzalez's finest moment against Lenhart came in the 81st minute when the Earthquakes striker appeared to have a clear shot at goal after cutting around the defense, but Gonzalez was able to make a last second block to direct the shot out of play.
“It was a tough battle,” Gonzalez said of his match up with Lenhart. “You guys saw it. I think that I got the better of him today. It just feels good. We finally put this team down.”
With Lenhart and forward Chris Wondolowski struggling to find the back of the net, the Galaxy capitalized with three goals in the first half, two from Robbie Keane and one by Mike Magee to put the game out of reach for San Jose. Although Alan Gordon would find the back of the net to cut the score to 3-1, it wasn’t enough for the Earthquakes.
“It’s amazing. They did well during the year, but they couldn’t pull it off tonight,” said Gonzalez after the match. “It just felt great to hear that whistle blow, and just to finally be over with those guys. We came out on top and I thought that they fought well. But they just couldn’t pull it off tonight.
In the few moments when the Earthquakes did get in behind the Galaxy back four, Gonzalez’s center back partner Tommy Meyer was up to the task. Repeatedly the young centerback was able to match the Earthquakes’ physicality, even though San Jose’s had targeted him for much of the match. But if it wasn’t Meyer then it was goalkeeper Josh Saunders, right back Sean Franklin or Todd Dunivant, who were able to make the timely saves to keep San Jose off the board for much of the game.
“I just think that our guys came out a lot more confident than them. We did a great job of sticking together in the back, being really close, and just challenging for everything. I think that most of our guys won the 50-50 battles.
But even when Gordon scored to move the game to just a single Earthquakes goal of extratime, Gonzalez made sure that LA’s defense held to prevent any late magic.
“Tonight wasn’t their night,” said Gonzalez. “You can do that all year, but when you need it is tonight and they couldn’t do it.”
Notes from the LA Galaxy's 3-1 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes in Western Conference Semifinal
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- A few notes from the LA Galaxy's 3-1 (3-2 aggregate) victory over the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday night.
*Robbie Keane tallied a pair of goals on Sunday to bring his postseason mark to three all-time in MLS.
*Alan Gordon cut LA's lead to 3-2 on aggregate with a goal in the 82nd minute.
*Prior to Keane's brace on Sunday, the last Galaxy player to score two was Landon Donovan in the Western Conference Championship against the Colorado Rapids in 2005.
*With losses for San Jose and Sporting Kansas City, the 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs mark the second time in MLS' 17 year history that the two top seeds in both conferences failed to advance past the Conference Semifinals.
*The Galaxy are now the third team to advance from the Conference Semifinal after losing at home. Joining the 2010 San Jose Earthquakes and 2006 Colorado Rapids.
*Marcelo Sarvas, Juninho, David Beckham, and Omar Gonzalez are all on yellow card watch. The cards do not reset until MLS Cup.
*With their victory, LA have now advanced to four straight Western Conference Championships since the 2009 season.
*With the Houston Dynamo's victory over Sporting Kansas City, the Galaxy could still host the 2012 MLS Cup FInal if both teams advance.
CONCACAF has announced the schedule for the Hexagonal, the final round of World Cup qualifying with a draw in Miami, Florida on Wednesday.
The complete United States schedule is below...
March 22nd- vs. Costa Rica
March 26th- at Mexico
June 7th- at Jamaica
June 11th- vs. Panama
June 18th- vs. Honduras
Sept. 6th- at Costa Rica
Sept. 10th- vs. Mexico
Oct. 11th- vs. Jamaica
Oct. 15th- at Panama
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- We're just hours away from tonight's decisive Western Conference Semifinal Second Leg between the LA Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes, before you tune into tonight's match at Buck Shaw Stadium, I've got a few observations and links for you.
David Beckham will be making his first appearance at Buck Shaw Stadium and the Galaxy midfielder is relishing the challenge of the intimate stadium.
The Galaxy will be facing long odds to advance at Buck Shaw, but the Galaxy believe that they are in control of their own destiny.
Robbie Keane feels that the Earthquakes will be looking to sit back on Wednesday night, but the Irish forward is ready for LA's 'all or nothing" approach.
In my preview for the game, I speak to Beckham and Galaxy captain Landon Donovan about LA's game plan for tonight.
LAGalaxy.com writer Larry Morgan writes about LA's positive mindset ahead of tonight's game.
Also, check out these video previews from both clubs.
Lastly, check out my Three Points to the game.
Robbie Keane vs. Victor Bernárdez
The most important match up of the night, Keane will need all of his industry and ball skills to break through the burly Honduran
David Beckham and Juninho vs. Sam Cronin and Rafael Baca
Tonight's game will be decided in the midfield as the Galaxy hope to once again control the possession battle against San Jose
Bruce Arena vs. Frank Yallop
The two veteran coaches are facing a major battle of wits as Arena's attack-minded Galaxy squad look to break through Yallop's physical Earthquakes.
PREDICTED LINEUP: Saunders; Franklin, Gonzalez, Meyer, Dunivant; Donovan, Sarvas, Juninho, Beckham; Buddle, Keane
After conceding a goal in the late stages of the Western Conference Semifinal First Leg, the LA Galaxy have all to play for in tonight's second leg at Buck Shaw Stadium.