Los Angeles Galaxy win Western Conference Championship over Seattle and advance to MLS Cup

December 1, 2014

Facing a 2-0 deficit on the road in a hostile environment, the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday managed to save their season and the career of retiring star Landon Donovan for at least one more game, rallying to score an away goal and winning their series with an aggregate goal advantage over the Seattle Sounders to capture the Western Conference Championship series.  As such, the Galaxy will advance to the 2014 MLS Cup Final, where they will face the New England Revolution Sunday, Dec. 7 at 12 p.m. PT at StubHub Center.

Juninho turned out to be the unlikely hero for the Galaxy, as his perfectly-placed blast in the 54th minute hit the post and ricocheted into the net for the series-deciding goal.

Landon Donovan assisted on Juninho’s goal, bringing his career playoff total to 14, tied with Mauricio Cienfuegos for the most in MLS history.

"It went through all the masses, I didn’t see it until the very end through one of our guys’ legs even," said Sounders keeper Stefan Frei of Juninho's goal.  "An inch further and I probably have it, an inch further out and it probably pings off the post and stays out."

The Galaxy won the first leg of the Western Conference Championship at StubHub Center 1-0 against Seattle, and fell 2-1 at CenturyLink Field, but because they scored an away goal, Los Angeles advanced to the MLS Cup Final. The Galaxy will now look to become the first team in MLS history to win five MLS Cup trophies when they face New England on Sunday.

LA will face New England for the second time this year, earning a 5-1 victory at StubHub Center on July 16 behind a brace each from Gyasi Zardes and MLS MVP finalist Robbie Keane and a goal from MLS Newcomer of the Year finalist Stefan Ishizaki.

The match will mark the third time that the Galaxy have faced the Revolution in an MLS Cup Final, with the Galaxy winning both previous matches by a score of 1-0. The Galaxy won their first MLS Cup title in 2002 against New England at Gillette Stadium, as a 113th-minute goal from forward Carlos Ruiz gave the Galaxy the victory. In 2005, a goal in the 105th minute from Guillermo Ramirez saw the Galaxy earn their second MLS Cup.

Since the start of the 2009 season, the LA Galaxy have hosted 14 playoff games in Carson, including MLS Cup 2011 and 2012. In those 14 games, the Galaxy are 12-2-0 and 28-5-1 all-time in home playoff games.

LA Galaxy Head Coach Bruce Arena is the winningest coach in MLS playoff history with a 29-10-5 record all-time in the MLS Cup Playoffs. Arena is set to coach in his sixth MLS Cup Final all time, winning in four of his previous five appearances.

Arena made one change to the starting lineup in Sunday's win, inserting defenders Leonardo and Dan Gargan in place of A.J. DeLaGarza and Tommy Meyer.

"We told our guys at halftime that we just have to get a goal to advance," said Arena.  "Juninho finally hit the goal this year.  It was a great goal and we had to hang on for our lives at the end there."

The Galaxy finished the 2014 MLS Regular Season with a 17-7-10 record and 61 points, scoring 69 goals scored while allowing just 37. LA’s +32 goal differential was the best in MLS this season and the second-highest in League history, trailing only the 1998 Galaxy side that recorded a +41 goal differential. The team ended the regular season with just seven losses in their 34 matches, the fewest in MLS this season, having only lost only four matches in the team’s final 26 games.

“I’m sort of just in this moment right now," said Donovan.  "I just want to prepare myself for one last week and do everything I can to help this team win. I want to go out a champion.”

By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com

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