SEATTLE, WASH – The Los Angeles Galaxy took command of its Western Conference Quarterfinal Series with the Seattle Sounders with a 1-0 victory in front of 35,521 at Qwest Field on Sunday night.
A moment of brilliance by Edson Buddle was the difference in a physical and fast paced match. Other than Buddle's goal, Los Angeles spent a great deal of the match absorbing the Seattle attack, but withstood the pressure to keep the club's 13th shut out of the season.
"Tough game and tough conditions for both teams, it was a pretty classic playoff game where you get a goal on the road and try to get out of here and that's what we did," said Arena. "It was big that we didn't get the second goal and that keeps the series alive so each side will have everything to play for in the second half."
Seattle dominated the early stages of the first half, but constantly failed to break through the Galaxy defense. The Sounders had an goal called back 32 seconds into the match when Steve Zakuani was ruled to be in an offside position. Seattle's inability to finish opened the door for the deciding goal in the 38th minute. The goal came when Omar Gonzalez played a ball into Buddle, who silenced the rowdy Qwest Field crowd with a turn and shoot goal from 35 yards out. The goal was Buddle's first in the post season for the Galaxy and his first in the playoffs in six years. The Galaxy are 12-1-1 when Buddle scores and an impressive 16-0-0 when leading at the half.
Buddle's strike may have given Los Angeles the victory, but the Galaxy missed a golden opportunity to double the lead in the 84th minute. Galaxy midfielder Juninho broke free of the Sounders defense and fired a shot that just missed Kasey Keller's net. Despite the missed opportunity by Juninho, Buddle was in awe of the strike that silenced the raucous Seattle crowd.
"You think about those things coming in, but you focus on team and structure first. To get a go-ahead goal, it felt good," said Buddle. "The way the ball bounced is why I shot it. I got a volley on it and it hit perfect for me. When I shoot, I hope to score. The way I wanted it to go, it went. Usually it's not the case. I got good contact and the ball dipped just the way I wanted it to."
The agressors in the first half of the match, the Sounders forced Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts to make a number of key saves to keep the score level. Ricketts made eight saves on the nightl, with seven coming in the first half. His biggest stops came in the 23rd and 24th minute with a pair of saves on successive chances by Sounders forward Fredy Montero.
Although the Sounders put a great deal of pressure on the Galaxy, Seattle's flank combination of Steve Zakuani and Sanna Nyassi struggled to break through. Filling in for the injured Todd Dunivant, Eddie Lewis shut down Nyassi, who failed to make any impact on the match. On the opposite side of the field, Franklin performed admirably stopping Zakuani. Following the match, Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid was noticeably concerned about the lack of production from the flanks.
“Franklin did a good job on Zakuani and they pinched the midfield pretty deep, and then you get a fortunate goal and it stands up then the game plan looks really good,” said Sounders Head Coach Sigi Schmid. “At the end of the day, we’re down at halftime 1-0 and we have the second half in LA and everything is still possible.”
With homefield throughout the playoffs, the Galaxy completed the 2010 road campaign, with only seven goals conceded away from the Home Depot Center. While the Galaxy have done well to keep its opponents off the board, the Sounders have struggled to score. Seattle has to score a goal in more than 300 minutes of playoff action, dating back to last season. This series will now shift to Los Angeles where the Galaxy will host the Sounders on November 7th at the Home Depot Center in the return leg.
Sitting in the drivers seat after the first match, the Galaxy are hopeful of closing out the Sounders in front of the home crowd.
"I thought it was a professional performance by us. We set our lineup early and we played some good football on the night," said midfielder David Beckham. "Our togetherness is what won the game and put us in a good position. We're happy with tonight and now we have to go do a job at home."