The LA Galaxy topped the Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference Championship first leg on Sunday, getting a Marcelo Sarvas goal to best the Supporters’ Shield winners 1-0 at StubHub Center.
The Galaxy controlled the match, keeping the Sounders – who were missing key players Osvaldo Alonso (injury) and Lamar Neagle (personal matter) – pinned deep in their own half through much of the afternoon. LA now have seven shutouts in their past 10 home games and still haven't allowed a goal over 270 minutes during the postseason.
Still, they couldn’t quite take full advantage of a Sounders defense that has allowed only two goals in three playoff games and kept Seattle within striking distance to win the series. The decisive second leg is in Seattle on Nov. 30.
With LA controlling the run of play, Seattle were relegated to generating first-half opportunities through counterattacks and set plays. They nearly took advantage of a dead ball in the 20th minute, forcing Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo to make a fantastic double save on close-range shots from star forwards Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey following a Brad Evans throw-in from the right corner.
The Galaxy upped the pressure to close the half, but Seattle held firm, keeping LA mostly at bay after allowing a dangerous Keane chance in the 31st minute.
The sides took the same posture to start the second half, with LA pressing Seattle onto the back foot. Despite that, it was the Sounders that had the first opportunity, with Martins and Dempsey combining to force Penedo into another brilliant stop on Dempsey in the 50th minute. Frei made a big save of his own two minutes later, acrobatically stopping a cross that deflected off of Seattle defender Leo Gonzalez after it whizzed by Zardes.
Frei was frozen by another deflection seconds later, however, standing helplessly by as Sarvas’s 15-yard shot bounced off defender Chad Marshall and found the back of the net. The goal was the second in as many postseason games for Sarvas after he scored one of the Galaxy's five goals in a romp over Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference semifinals.
LA defender A.J. DeLaGarza set up the latest goal, cutting a low ball from the right wing back to Sarvas, who eventually left the match in the 69th minute due to injury.
LA nearly iced the opening leg in the 61st, when Stefan Ishizaki drilled the underside of the crossbar with a 20-yard free kick. Ishizaki let another chance slip in the 74th, half-volleying a Keane cross well over the bar from a tight angle.
The Galaxy had one last opportunity in second half stoppage time, but substitute forward Alan Gordon couldn’t get his shot past a sliding Marshall, who made a key block to keep the margin at 1-0.
LA Galaxy 1, Seattle Sounders FC 0
Sunday, Nov. 23 – 2:00 p.m. PT
MLS Cup Playoffs – Western Conference Championship First Leg
StubHub Center – Carson, Calif.
LA – Marcelo Sarvas 52’ (Assisted by A.J. DeLaGarza)
SEA – DeAndre Yedlin (caution) 3’
LA – A.J. DeLaGarza (caution) 8’
LA – Stefan Ishizaki (caution) 35’
SEA – Zach Scott (caution) 37’
LA Galaxy: Jaime Penedo; Robbie Rogers, Omar Gonzalez, Tommy Meyer, A.J. DeLaGarza (Dan Gargan 61’); Stefan Ishizaki (Alan Gordon 80’), Marcelo Sarvas (Baggio Husidic 69’), Juninho, Landon Donovan; Robbie Keane ©, Gyasi Zardes.
Substitutes Not Used: Brian Rowe, Todd Dunivant, Kenney Walker, Jose Villarreal.
TOTAL SHOTS: 20; SHOTS ON GOAL: 3; FOULS: 11; OFFSIDE: 0; CORNER KICKS: 6; SAVES: 3.
Seattle Sounders FC: Stefan Frei, DeAndre Yedlin, Leonardo Gonzalez, Zach Scott, Chad Marshall, Gonzalo Pineda, Michael Azira (Andy Rose 80’), Brad Evans (Jalil Anibaba 89’), Marco Pappa (Chad Barrett 62), Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins.
Substitutes Not Used: Kenny Cooper, Djimi Traore, Cam Weaver, Marcus Hahnemann.
TOTAL SHOTS: 10; SHOTS ON GOAL: 3; FOULS: 14; OFFSIDE: 2; CORNER KICKS: 5; SAVES: 2.
Referee: Kevin Stott
Referee’s Assistants: Adam Wienckowski, Greg Barkey
4th Official: Ricardo Salazar