By: Karen Watson
SEATTLE – On Halloween the Sounders weren’t in the mood to give their regular season nemesis the LA Galaxy any treats but ended up handing them a 1-0 win in the first game of their MLS playoff duel.
Trying to shake the ghost of two consecutive losses, the Sounders broke out of the gate on the attack, scoring within the first minute but the goal was disallowed for offsides. Even so it only served to give Seattle even more confidence who maintained a lightening pace and kept the visitors under pressure during the first half.
Previous to the match, Sounders coach Sigi Schmid talked about the necessity of shutting down the Galaxy’s game plan by limiting the number of free kicks. But LA midfielder David Beckham ultimately had numerous opportunities to unleash his lethal signature skill, the first in the 7’ after Seattle’s James Riley fouled Landon Donovan just outside the box setting up a tense moment for the home side. The former England captain brilliantly bent the ball in toward goal, narrowly missing the net and bouncing off the bar, an early close call for Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller.
As in previous matches Seattle’s weakness was exposed on their crosses in front of goal, failing to connect with passes and missing out on scoring opportunities. Sounders forward Fredy Montero, who hasn’t scored in his last seven MLS games, had an excellent chance in the 24’ but Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Rickets came up big with the save.
The Galaxy earned the lead in the 38’ on a tremendous Edson Buddle goal from distance and on the wide angle, catching Keller off his line and ending up in the upper left corner of the net. “It was a perfect bouncing ball and I wanted to keep it on target. It perfectly dipped over his (Keller) head,” summed up Buddle after the game.
Throughout the match LA did an excellent job of shutting Seattle down wide, limiting the movement and usual speed of midfielders Steve Zakuani and Sanni Nyassi. Montero appeared out of stride and never presented a real attacking threat to the Galaxy’s back four. As more time ticked down with Seattle still goalless midfielder Nate Sturgis was subbed in the 81’ with striker Nate Jaqua. Overall, the Rave Green had more shots on goal (15 vs. 10) but their long ball style was well handled by the defensive midfield support of Donovan and Beckham.
Five minutes of stoppage time wasn’t enough for Seattle to complete the job and as the whistle blew the deflated sigh of the 35,000 + home crowd rippled through the stands. The Sounders are now under serious pressure as they head to LA for the return leg on November 7 where they will need to score at least two goals in order to advance.