BY KAYLA KNAPP
CARSON, CALIF.—Robbie Keane just cannot stop scoring.
The LA Galaxy striker picked up another brace in their 3-0 win over the Seattle Sounders on Sunday night. The victory gave the defending MLS Cup champions a bit of breathing room ahead of the second leg of the Western Conference finals in Seattle on Nov 18th.
“We played very well tonight against an excellent team,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said. “We’re not foolish enough to believe that this thing is over. The game in Seattle on Sunday is going to be a real difficult game. We have to have our team ready to play.”
The red-hot Galaxy goal scorer was thrilled with the result, but cautious looking ahead to the second leg of the series.
“It’s important that we got good win tonight, but the job is only half done,” Keane said. “If the lads think for one second that this is over, they may think again because as we know in football, it’s a funny ol’ game and anything can happen.”
While the Sounders held strong in the first half, the Galaxy were able to run rampant on a tired and beaten up squad for most of the second half. Even the late-game addition of striker Eddie Johnson wasn’t able to get the visitors on the scoreboard. Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid was clearly disappointed with the result, especially a loss by such a large deficit.
“We had the ability to keep it at 1-0, and we should’ve kept it at 1-0 and played with a better mentality at that stage,” Schmid said after the loss. “We possibly pushed a little bit when we shouldn’t have pushed to try and get the goal back, because getting the goal back wasn’t important. 1-0 was fine.”
The opening goal came in the 45th minute, when Galaxy captain Landon Donovan easily ditched his defender Jeff Parke, and chipped the ball across the goalmouth as he fell backwards. The cross found Robbie Keane on the opposite post, who headed it powerfully past Michael Gspurning.
After the final whistle, both teams considered the goal right before halftime the game-changing moment of match.
“What we wanted to do was congest midfield a little bit and make it a little more difficult to possess the ball more,” Schmid said of his game plan in the first half. “When you look at the stats, and you look at our possession and you look at even the first half, I thought we did a good job. It went exactly like I wanted it to – we were one minute away from having it go the way we wanted it to go.”
“That was huge,” Donovan said of the opening goal. “We didn’t play all too well in the first half. We created a couple of chances, but we weren’t all that dangerous. To break through right before, I think broke their back a little bit, and then our second half was terrific.”
After the halftime break, the Galaxy came out with giant boost from Keane’s goal. In the 64th minute, Sean Franklin made a great run forward – something he had been doing all game – and found a wide-open Mike Magee in the Seattle box. The playoffs clutch-man came through again, finishing Franklin’s cross past Gspurning to give the Galaxy a 2-0 lead.
Then just three minutes later, the Galaxy offense would strike again. Donovan took a shot from the top of the box that deflected off the Seattle defense. Christian Wilhelmsson collected the ball, and pushed it past Gspurning. Keane made sure the weak shot crossed the line, giving the home side a 3-0 lead in the 67th minute.
It felt like a rout was on as the Galaxy pressed for more, but Seattle keeper Gspurning did a stellar job keeping them off the board for the final 20 minutes of the match. But the three-goal deficit could haunt Seattle going into the second leg.
“We talked at halftime, and we said 1-0 is OK, we walk away 1-0 we’re alright. I really tried to emphasize that at halftime, but then at the end of the day we didn’t,” Schmid said. “So now we have to come back and we’ve got to play with the same attitude, the same conviction that we played with last year in the game two, but we’ve got to score more goals.”
Heading back home after a 3-0 loss, the Sounders have a steep hill to climb to move on to MLS Cup – but don’t count this team out. There are still 90 minutes (maybe more) of soccer to be played.
“Seattle’s always been a tough place to go and win games and play at, their fans will be right behind them,” David Beckham said after the match. “But we have obviously put ourselves in good position, but we know that it’s far from over.”
The second leg of the Western Conference finals will be played at Centurylink Field on November 18th, giving both sides a week to rest before they clash again. The week off is a relief for all teams still involved in the playoffs.
“This is a difficult schedule for all the teams,” Arena said. “Obviously I think it was challenging for DC United today going into Houston. I think Seattle would say the same. We had the play-in game. So it’s been a lot of games in a short period of time, and we’ve been fortunate to be able to survive to this point.”