The LA Galaxy‘s quest to become the first MLS club with five MLS Cup championships, including three in the last four years, is alive and well following Sunday’s 1-0 victory over the Seattle Sounders in the first leg of the Western Conference Championship.
On a day billed as a “meeting of the stars,” the likes of Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins were rendered mostly ineffective for much of the game.
The Sounders’ star duo combined for what would have been the new Goal of the Playoffs thus far just four minutes into the second half. Martins, holding the ball up all on his own, forced Omar Gonzalez into a 30-yard backpedal as the Nigerian forward beared down on him. Dempsey’s late run from midfield was rewarded with a clever backheel that left him 1-on-1 with Jaime Penedo, but the Panamanian got a hand to Dempsey’s soft chipped effort and held the rebound.
The Galaxy were inches from taking the lead in the 52 minute when Gyasi Zardes redirected a cross from close range that took a serious deflection off Sounders midfielder Gonzalo Pineda and forced Stefan Frei into a point-blank save off the goal line.
Mere seconds later, the Galaxy got their goal (below video). Marcelo Sarvas was the recipient of a rebound at the top of the 18-yard box. The Brazilian took a touch to settle, another to set himself and rifled a shot goalward. The ball took a wicked deflection off Sounders defender Chad Marshall and with Frei already leaning heavily to his right, found its way into the back of the net. It was Sarvas’s second goal of the 2014 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Bruce Arena‘s looked to really take control and slow the game’s pace following the opening goal, and without the injured Osvaldo Alonso in the Sounders’ midfield, the Galaxy had little trouble doing so. Until Sarvas went down with a thigh contusion 20 minutes before the end of time, that is.
Without the midfield dup of Sarvas and Juninho, who combined started 56 of a possible 68 total games, Dempsey and Martins found a bit more space and time through the center, and more importantly, the chance to open up and run on the counter-attack.
The two nearly combined on a pair of chances in the last 15 minutes of the game, but Tommy Meyer and Omar Gonzalez were quick on the scene to clean up and put the Galaxy in the driver’s seat after 90 of 180 minutes.
The series’ second leg will be played next Sunday (9 pm ET) at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.
LA Galaxy: Penedo, DeLaGarza (Gargan 61′), Gonzalez, Meyer, Rogers, Ishizaki (Gordon 80′), Sarvas (Husidic 69′), Juninho, Donovan, Keane, Zardes
Goals: Sarvas (52′)
Seattle Sounders: Frei, Yedlin, Marshall, Scott, Gonzalez, Evans (Anibaba 89′), Pineda, Azira (Rose 80′), Pappa (Barrett 62′), Dempsey, Martins