By: Alex Baker
The LA Galaxy returned to winning ways with a 3-1 victory over the Seattle Sounders in front of an exuberant 27,000 strong home crowd. Fireworks were visible in the sky around the Home Depot Center in Carson but it was the Galaxy who would be providing most of the fireworks on the pitch.
America’s soccer hero, Landon Donovan returned to the Galaxy’s starting lineup along with his World Cup teammate, Edson Buddle. The two-week World Cup hiatus had also helped Seattle recover from a rash of injuries and they had the benefit of their full lineup including Fredy Montero and Freddy Ljungberg.
Galaxy went into the game hoping the return of their two World Cup stars could change there luck having suffered a loss to Real Salt Lake and then been fought to a scoreless draw by Toronto FC. Sounders were coming off a dispiriting 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Union.
Galaxy started in an attacking mood and nearly scored in the second minute when Michael Stephens got onto a ball that had been poorly cleared after Donovan had crossed it in for Buddle. However his shot rebounded off the far post.
Galaxy continued to probe Seattle’s defense and Chris Birchall almost gave them the lead in the 11th minute, shooting from outside the box only to have his shot fly just over Casey Keller’s goal.
The first fifteen minutes it was Galaxy asking the questions while the visitors were looking well and truly pushed back onto their heels. Birchall nearly scored again in the 18th minute when he once again shot from distance forcing Keller into a diving save to the far post.
The breakthrough the home side had been working for came a minute later when Buddle got onto the end of a corner kick from Landon Donovan and rose to head it into the back of the net, registering his tenth MLS goal of the season.
Seeing the two combine so spectacularly, one couldn’t help but wonder if Bob Bradley, who was in attendance, might have wondered how the USA might have faired had Buddle seen more action during their World Cup campaign.
Seattle struggled to get the ball out of their own half and the few first half chances they might have created were comfortably dealt with by Galaxy’s defense. Their first real opportunity of the night came in the 32nd minute when defensive lapses from the Galaxy created a near chance for Montero who had his shot blocked by Berhalter.
But as the first half entered its last ten minutes Seattle looked to be finding their footing and almost scored in the 38th minute when Pat Noonan nearly got on the end of throw in from Montero. But it was to no avail and the first half finished with the home side very deservingly up 1-0.
The Galaxy doubled their lead three minutes into the second half when Juninho found space and fired a spectacular shot from distance that left Keller helplessly sprawled on the grass.
In the 62nd minute Alan Gordon was subbed on for Buddle, who had taken a hard knock in the first half.
Seattle finally found their way back into the game four minutes later when Steve Zakuani threaded his way through the Galaxy’s defense and clinically slipped the ball past Rickets.
Emboldened by their chances Seattle now began to really press the LA back four. They very nearly equalized in the 74th when Ljungberg broke through the central defense and took a shot that forced Rickets into decisive action.
But Seattle’s rally ran aground in the 77th minute. Substitute Gordon broke down the right flank and fired the ball across goal, forcing a desperate save from Seattle’s James Riley that resulted in the Sounders gifting an own goal that made it 3-1 for the Galaxy.
L.A. were awarded a direct free kick eight minutes before time after Juninho was brought down by Todd Marshall who was shown a yellow card. Juninho succeeded in clearing the wall and beating the keeper, only to have his shot go wide of goal.
Seattle continued to press their case and as the match went into added time Mike Seaman broke free of the defense and took a shot that forced Rickets into yet another dramatic save.
Moments later the final whistle was blown and the score stood at 3-1 in favor of the home side. Galaxy celebrated their return to winning ways with a 4th of July fireworks display. Seattle meanwhile, were left to lick their wounds and perhaps contemplate what has gone so wrong for a side that showed such promise in their inaugural season as an MLS expansion team.
By: Alex Baker