Seattle looked nothing like the team that eliminated Real Salt Lake, while the Galaxy continue to look like the team that turned it on at precisely the right time.
The defending champions clobbered Seattle on Sunday at the Home Depot Center. As a result, Los Angeles has a chokehold on the Western Conference finals series, a strong three-goal lead heading into next week’s second leg in Seattle.
Man of the Match:
With apologies to Houston’s Will Bruin and his four post-season goals, the sensational Robbie Keane looks more and more like this year’s playoff MVP. There’s still time for something to change, of course, but the Irish international seems unstoppable right now. With two more goalsand an absolutely brilliant pass to set up another Galaxy goal, no one was more influential in Sunday’s big win.
Threesome of knowledge: What we learned
Landon Donovan continues to deliver:
Donovan may sound like he’s bound and determined to retire, but he is delivering like a man just getting started. So far in the playoffs, the Galaxy captain has a goal and three assists, and his combination work withKeane is a sight to behold.
Donovan started just a little slowly in the playoffs against Vancouver, but he has been a productive livewire since. Proving that Donovan at 30 still has the fleet feet, he blew past Seattle center back Jeff Parke to create that handy Galaxy goal just before the half.
It’s not just that signature jump in his boots; Donovan is thinking fast, too. He was the fulcrum as the Galaxy looked to create midfield turnovers (something Bruce Arena teams always do well) and then get the attack started quickly.
When the counter was on, the ball usually found Donovan quickly. He did a wonderful job of moving things along quickly from there.
Seattle had a bad plan:
Seattle manager Sigi Schmid’s hands were somewhat tied by Eddie Johnson’s lingering injury. That said, Schmid’s choices just didn’t work out.
The 4-5-1 with Fredy Montero isolated up front produced zilch. Christian Tiffert, playing in the hole behind Montero, was nowhere to be found. Result: Montero’s playoff shutout streak, now at nine games and counting, had no chance to reverse itself in this one. The Sounders created precious few chances until the final 10 minutes, when the Galaxy backed off.
Mario Martinez, the hero of Seattle’s win Thursday in Utah, reminded everyone why Schmid has been so reluctant to play him. He doesn’t show much interest in defending, and his positional discipline stinks. In a game where Seattle’s third-choice left back, Zach Scott, was never going to advance up the flank, Martinez continually worked to the inside. Which would be fine if Martinez had a left back behind him to provide the width.
Defensively, the visitors simply unraveled, and the Galaxy goal just before the half was just the start. By the 65th minute, the Sounders’ defense had been absolutely shredded. Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and the rest of Seattle’s defense was helpless against the Galaxy’s interchange inside the final third.
With a little luck, the home team’s win would have been 4-0 or 5-0.
There are plenty of potential playoff MVPs coming from L.A. Galaxy Valley:
Keane isn’t the only drop-dead gorgeous performer at the moment in an L.A. Galaxy kit.
Donovan’s movement and understanding with Keane is simply sensational at present (the very opposite of what we saw Sunday between Tiffert and Montero, who looked as if they barely knew each other.)
Omar Gonzalez was commanding in the back once again, although he did get sucked out of position and then linger out there a bit too long at times. Christian Wilhelmsson was a two-way force along the right. He played a significant role in two Galaxy goals.
And then there’s Mike Magee, who hit the Galaxy’s second Sunday. He now has eight playoff goals in 15 games for the Galaxy.
Packaged for take-away
- Fair to point out that the visitors had one day less rest. Did that explain the gulf in performance level of these two teams Sunday? Probably not, but it’s still worth pointing out.
- Donovan has 20 goals and 12 assists in 32 MLS playoff games. Anybody who cannot see Donovan’s value – there are plenty of U.S. supporters out there who inexplicably refuse to do so – simply is not looking at this thing objectively.
- The Galaxy’s 57th minute sequence from inside the Sounders’ penalty area might have been the best combination work of the playoffs so far. Only Alex Caskey’s last-ditch defending prevented Donovan from recording his second assist of the night.
- A hustle play by Parke kept Donovan from making it 4-0 in the 76th, as the Galaxy worked more of that combination magic inside the Sounders’ penalty area.