CARSON, Calif. – The highly anticipated Western Conference battle between the LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders had the feeling of a playoff matchup – plenty of passion and just a little artistry as the reigning MLS Cup champion and current Supporters' Shield leader battled to a 1-1 draw Saturday night.
Eddie Johnson headed home a corner kick to give the Sounders a 25th-minute lead and Juninho answered with a free kick in first-half stoppage, and LA couldn't turn second-half domination into anything concrete as both teams left the sold-out StubHub Center with a point.
Seattle (15-8-5) increased its lead in the Western and Shield standings to two points, and the Galaxy (13-10-6) returned to fourth place in the West, five points off the pace.
The Galaxy dictated the first 20 minutes or so, linking well through midfield and the flanks but lacking connections in the final third, a struggle throughout the first half without the injured Landon Donovan.
Gyasi Zardes had LA's best early chance, in the 19th minute, taking a pass from Robbie Keane, beating DeAndre Yedlin to open space, then firing from just beyond the 18 toward the upper-right corner. Sounders goalkeeper Michael Gspurning leaped to push the ball over his bar.
Johnson, with his eighth goal of the year, nodded Seattle ahead moments later. He lost Omar Gonzalez at the start of his run from the top of the box and was alone just above the 6-yard box to powerfully head home Mauro Rosales' corner kick from the right.
It was Seattle's first goal in five games against the Galaxy in Carson, ending a 364-minute drought.
The Galaxy pulled even on the final touch of the half, after Zach Scott picked up a yellow card for tripping Jose Villarreal just above the semicircle outside Seattle's box. Juninho, scoring his first goal of the season, curled the ball inside the left post.
The Galaxy controlled the second half, repeatedly surging forward and too often getting nothing from it.
Zardes found net 15 minutes into the second half, finishing after Gonzalez headed a Juninho free kick into the goalmouth, but referee Silviu Petrescu had blown his whistle for a foul while the ball was flying toward the box.
Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, dominant at the back all night, halted Keane at the right post in the 75th minute, Sarvas sent a Sean Franklin feed into the box well over the crossbar two minutes later, and Zardes fired well high with an open shot on the left in the 83rd.
Seattle had one genuine chance after halftime, after substitute Brad Evans beat to defenders into the box and sent a little chip to the center for Lamar Neagle, whose header skipped just past the left post.
The Galaxy had a final chance deep in stoppage, just after Scott was sent off for his second yellow of the evening. But they couldn't corrall a ball ricocheting around the Sounders box before Yedlin cleared the danger.
The Galaxy can clinch a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal berth with a draw or victory Wednesday against Cartagines in San Jose, Costa Rica, then return to league play next Wednesday at Portland. The Sounders are home next Sunday against New York.