By JASON MITCHELL
SEATTLE, Wash. – In case anyone was wondering, the Seattle Sounders are back.
In a nationally-televised marquee matchup plump with playoff implications, the Sounders struck early, poured in goals in the second half, and trounced the LA Galaxy 4-0 at CenturyLink Field.
The Sunday night win might have also avenged an infamous 4-0 thumping the Galaxy gave the Sounders here two years ago. The Galaxy are now winless in two matches against Seattle this season, and have been outscored 6-0.
"We talked about how they've been our 'bogey-team' for awhile," admitted Sounders coach Sigi Schmid, "and had seemed to get the better of us over the last few years prior to this one. That was something we talked about that we thought we could turn around."
If it was a redemption story, the Sounders didn't hesitate to start writing it.
In just the sixth minute, Mauro Rosales pegged Eddie Johnson near-post with a soaring deep cross that Johnson cleanly headed in for his 10th goal of the season. If Johnson hasn't bought Rosales dinner yet, he might want to get that scheduled: six of Johnson's goals have come courtesy of the Argentine playmaker's deft passing.
Although the Sounders eventually gave the raucous 60,908 in attendance plenty more to cheer, Johnson's score would be the only goal Seattle needed.
With the victory, the Sounders (10-5-7) held onto third place in the Western Conference against the hard-charging Galaxy (10-11-3), who had gone 4-0-1 in their last five matches to pull within a single point of the Sounders in the standings.
Seattle blazed out of the gates to open the season before a nine-match winless streak sent it tumbling back into the pack. They've slowly worked themselves back into form in recent weeks, unbeaten in their last eight matches across all competitions (5-0-3). Sunday's win would seem to indicate they're all the way back.
"I think it sends a message to the other teams, as well," said Schmid. "That streak that everyone was talking about is behind us, and we're moving forward."
But Schmid seemed to think the most important message was the one the Sounders sent to themselves.
"It's us knowing that, 'Hey, here's what we can do,'" said Schmid. "'Here's the commitment that we have. This is the potential that can we can achieve. This is what we can do as we continue to move forward.' It's about ourselves. It's about getting confidence in our ability to be able to take on big challenges, big games—we have another Wednesday—and to respond to those challenges."
Although Seattle scored first, the Galaxy generated more possession in the first half. David Beckham sent cross after cross from midfield and beyond toward the top of the penalty area, doggedly working to release Landon Donovan or Robbie Keane behind Seattle's back line, or at least to find them windows between lines. Beckham also had far more set pieces and corner kicks than any team in the world would want to give him, but he was never able to find that magic moment.
For their part the Sounders generated plenty of good buildup throughout the first half, and threatened repeatedly on the counter. Seattle effectively found creases and angles for through-balls and overlapping runs, but were unable to find the insurance goal.
Until the second half.
Fredy Montero put the Sounders up 2-0 in the 51st minute, chasing down a deflected shot and blasting a volley off a diving Josh Saunders' outstretched arms. Saunders had come off his line to clear a shot and struggled to get back in net before Montero could collect the deflection.
Rookie Alex Caskey made it 3-0 with a deep one-touch chip that, once again, caught Saunders off his line after the keeper had raced out to deflect a shot.
Andy Rose capped the scoring in the 88th minute, receiving a rolling cross from late sub Marc Burch and tapping a shot into the back right corner of the net.
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena didn't see much on the pitch that didn't merit complaint. His team's performance. The referee. The artificial surface.
Asked about the officiating, Arena was frank.
"It changes the game, no question about it," he said. "That’s part of playing in this league, you have to deal with the officiating.”
The Galaxy seemed particularly irate over a Leo Gonzalez tackle in the box that LA thought merited a penalty kick.
Asked about how the match got away from his club, Arena added, "I thought [it was] a little unlucky, too. On this surface, the ball moves in funny ways. We got caught off balance on a few of them."
Arena did not, however, excuse his team's play.
"We didn't help Josh [Saunders] today," said Arena, "and we weren't good enough. It took us 84 minutes to get a shot on goal. We had a bunch of possession. We were very poor in executing in the final third of the field. Didn't get a good cross in, didn't have runners in front of the goal. We didn't do a lot of things well today."
The Galaxy are off until a Sunday match against Chivas USA, while the Sounders will defend their US Open Cup title at Kansas City on Wednesday.