By Zachary Sayward
The Los Angeles Galaxy stole a 1-0 home victory over the Seattle Sounders on Sunday to take the lead in the MLS Western Conference Finals. Marcelo Sarvas scored the game’s only goal in the 52nd minute, driving a low shot from just inside the penalty box that glanced off Sounders defender Chad Marshall to skip into the back of the net. While the Galaxy no doubt welcome the win, the two-game playoff is conducted in aggregate-goal format and, by no means, does a one goal lead allow them to rest on their laurels.
Playing it Safe
By and large, the match was played in Sounders’ territory, Los Angeles being the more aggressive of the two teams by far. The Galaxy’s Clint Dempsey, always a threat, worked brilliantly with Obafemi Martins to pester Seattle’s back line and create attacks from the middle of the field. The much-interrupted style of their team’s play still left something to be desired, but the duo’s performance against the emerald city’s fullbacks delivered and then some.
The Sounders chose to play nervous, methodical soccer, relying on a strong defensive lineup to keep them alive and spending the majority of the game on their heels because of it.Some excellent goal-tending by their keeper Stefan Frei and the Galaxy’s inability to capitalize on several opportunities share responsibility for the tight score.The Sounders’ conservative play may have been an intentional ploy to keep them in contention until they have home-field advantage, but they would do well to abandon the strategy before they rematch LA this Sunday, November 30th.
The Missing Link
Sounders midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, known as “Honey Badger” to fans, suffered a hamstring injury in game two of the semifinals versus FC Dallas and consequently was unable to play in Sunday’s match. His absence was noticeable on the pitch, leaving the Sounders’ center short a crucial ball-winner and dependable play-maker. Though the lineup has yet to be announced, it does not look as though Alonso will return in time for game two, meaning the Sounders will need to look elsewhere for their offense in the second leg of the championship.
Though the Galaxy may be wishing they had added a couple more to the scoreboard when they had the chance, they have reason to congratulate themselves on the shut out. 2014 marks the first year that, in the event two teams are tied for total goals, the winner is decided by number of goals away. Since the Sounders failed to taste net at the StubHub Center, the Galaxy can afford to lose the next match by one, provided they manage to get on the board. That means a 2-1 win for the Sounders this Sunday still ends their season and sees the Galaxy through to the final fight for the MLS Cup