The Los Angeles Galaxy fielded a formidable line up for the first leg of the Western Conference Finals at the Home Depot Center. The Seattle Sounders were without Eddie Johnson and the suspended Marc Burch meaning Alex Caskey and Zach Scott were inserted into the starting 11. The Sounders have never been here before, but they would give the Galaxy a challenge. Seattle beat LA handily this season, but history was on the side of the Galaxy. The first 15 minutes of this 180 minute trial could set the tone.
The first sixth of the match favored the Galaxy slightly in possession with the first shot from distance by Robbie
Keane handled by Michael Gspurning. Landon Donovan was pushed up with Keane with Christian Wilhelmsson and David Beckham coming for support. The semifinal hero Mario Martinez and Brad Evans were active early for Seattle as they tried to stave off the initial push.
Seattle was able to level out the game early as a key tackle from Scott snuffed out the best opportunity for the Galaxy in the first 20 minutes. Donovan was denied on a header from about 15 on a good service from Keane in the 29th minute. The Galaxy earned a threatening free kick and a couple corners that amounted to very little and the match was still level at 0-0 with 30 minutes gone.
It felt like neither team could get a grasp on the match. The Sounders had a few shots from long distance but nothing overly threatening. They only had two touches in the attacking penalty area in the first half and decided to try to pack it in on defense. The Galaxy were linking up but seemed to be missing on that last pass. What was clear was that Donovan and Keane had a connection that didn’t even require looking up. That proved beneficial as Keane opened the scoring in first half stoppage time as Donovan pursued the ball to the end line and curled it back far post. Keane spotted the ball perfectly off his head for a demoralizing goal just before the whistle. The flick on by Wilhelmsson allowed the play to develop and Donovan to find the ball first.
The second half began with much of the same. Seattle was not creating threats, but the play of Keane, Wilhelmsson, Donovan, and Beckham was linking up well. A beautiful passing play set up a golden chance as Donovan dummied a play that resulted in him getting behind the Sounders’ defense. Scott saved the day with a
clearance over the bar on the last pass with only an empty goal ahead.
The flood gates were about to open up though as Seattle made a couple attempts toward goal and the Galaxy counterattack was ready for the challenge. Two quick goals were scored as Keane added a second moments after Mike Magee got his eighth playoff goal. Passing was very easy for this Galaxy team. Keane started a run and sent a great through ball to Sean Franklin who found Magee all alone. Keane would then steal one from Wilhelmsson off of a high bounce with the Sounders defense out of sorts.
It looks like the defending champions have found their peak form before heading to Seattle for the second leg. There will be some concern about Donovan who came off late with an apparent tweak of his leg. The margin is now three and could have been much more. Leg two takes place next Sunday.