Los Angeles Galaxy defeat Seattle 1-0 in first leg of series

November 24, 2014

Carson, Calif. -- In the first leg of the 2014 Western Conference Finals in front of a packed house of 27,000 fans on Sunday, the Los Angeles Galaxy hosted a familiar foe in the Seattle Sounders, a formidable squad with a physical style of play and a dangerous scoring threat in star Clint Dempsey.

Galaxy coach Bruce Arena made one change to the starting lineup, inserting defender Tommy Meyer in place of Leonardo, as A.J. DeLaGarza slid out to the right along the back line.

Almost immediately, it became apparent that Seattle was going to implement their physical approach to this series even if that meant throwing an occasional cheap shot, as DeAndre Yedlin picked up a yellow card for a reckless challenge in the 3rd minute.

"Certainly there was a lot of persistent fouling on their side, rather than us," said the Galaxy's Robbie Keane. "It was very clear for everyone to see. It was the same. The same as it was a few weeks ago. Very physical. It’s what you expect for these type of games.”

In the 20th minute, Seattle had their best chance to score, but Jaime Penedo saved the Galaxy from conceding an away goal, and possibly may have won LA the series in the process.

On the sequence, a throw-in found the feet of Obafemi Martins who shot from inside the 6-yard box. Martins’ shot was kept out by Penedo, but then Dempsey followed up on the rebound.  Dempsey’s shot skipped off the pitch and traveled up, but Penedo got his hands up in time, keeping out both attempts.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles attacked throughout the first half with aggressive play from Robbie Rogers and Stefan Ishizaki on the wings, which resulted in shot attempts for Keane, Gyasi Zardes, Omar Gonzalez, and Rogers.

The Sounders’ brought their own style of aggression, with Zach Scott epitomizing Seattle’s play with an elbow to Keane’s face in the 37th minute. Scott was given a yellow card, which would be the theme of the day for the Sounders.

In the second half, the Sounders had another chance when Martins took on two Galaxy defenders and then passed off to Dempsey, who was not marked as he made the run behind Martins. Dempsey tried chipping the ball over Penedo, but it was again saved.

The Galaxy responded in the 52nd minute when AJ DeLaGarza got the ball wide and passed to Marcelo Sarvas, who was just inside the 18-yard box. Sarvas took a shot which deflected off Chad Marshall and into the goal past Stefan Frei for a 1-0 LA lead.

The Galaxy nearly had a second goal in the 61st minute when Ishizaki took a free-kick that was just about perfect other than the fact that it touched the crossbar.

Despite the scoring chances that LA and Seattle created in the second half, the story was the physical and cheap play of Zach Scott. Most notably, Scott committed three reckless fouls on Alan Gordon within the last 10 minutes of the game, but head referee Kevin Stott didn’t even think about reaching in his pocket for a second yellow card.

After the game, the Galaxy shared their thoughts on what transpired and Omar Gonzalez was quite clear in expressing LA’s feelings.

"It's tough when Stott says to one of your players that he's not going to give another yellow because he wants the best players to play in the next game," said Gonzalez. “I think it's not his job to focus on the next game. It's his job to focus on the game tonight, the game at hand. For him to say that to one of our players is pretty ridiculous."

So the series now moves to Seattle for a final showdown between these two teams on Sunday.  Both teams leave LA feeling somewhat satisfied, as Seattle only allowed one goal in the aggregate, and LA didn’t concede an away goal. Leg 2 figures to be an intense battle in Seattle between these two top Western Conference teams with the victor facing the New York-New England winner in the MLS Cup.

"It’s a man’s game," said Keane.  "You have to accept that there will be a few tackles, a few elbows. It’s part of the game. You have to give as good as you get.”

News and Notes

  • In MLS Cup Playoff matches, the Galaxy are now 4-1-0 against the Seattle Sounders.
  • Defender A.J. DeLaGarza notched his second-ever MLS postseason assist on Sarvas’ goal. 
  • Goalkeeper Jaime Penedo recorded his third-straight shutout of the 2014 MLS Cup Playoffs. He has yet to concede a goal this postseason, recording 10 saves.
  • Landon Donovan made his 25th postseason start for the Galaxy, tied for the fifth-most playoff starts in team history.
  • MLS 2014 Newcomer of the Year Finalist Stefan Ishizaki made his second straight start for the Galaxy at right midfield. During the MLS Regular Season, Ishizaki scored five goals and added seven assists.  Ishizaki finished the game with 12 crosses from open play in 80 minutes, four more than the entire Sounders FC team (8).  Only three times in MLS this year has a player attempted more open play crosses than Ishizaki tonight (Barrera 16, 14, Michel 13).

By Brian Kowalski
Reporter for TheDailySportsHerald.com

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