Photo by Jane Gershovich/JaneG. Photography
By JASON MITCHELL
SEATTLE — It was billed as matchup showcasing two elite MLS teams, but only one showed up.
The LA Galaxy came into the Emerald City on Monday night and ran the Seattle Sounders off their own field, scoring three first-half goals en route to a 3-0 romp in front of 39,304 at CenturyLink Field.
The Galaxy dominated from the start, combining beautifully and with verve, piling up chances through Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, and Marcelo Sarvas. Donovan led the way with a goal and two assists. Sarvas added a pair of assists as well.
Gyasi Zardes, slipping into dangerous channels and pockets throughout the match, opened the scoring in just the eighth minute. Sarvas found Donovan streaking into the penalty area, and Donovan laid off a beautiful one-touch pass to Zardes, who easily beat Stefan Frei from the penalty spot for the 1-0 lead. It was Zardes’ sixth goal in his last seven matches.
Donovan doubled the lead just 10 minutes later, pouncing on a rebounded shot and finishing with a simple left-footed tap from point-blank range.
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena moved Donovan wide left to start the match, but the longtime U.S. international credited his performance more to mentality than formation.
“It was more about my demeanor and my attitude than anything,” Donovan said. “I had a good week in training. I felt like I hadn’t played well lately and that bothered me. I got myself to the point in early May where I was playing very well, and I was at the top of my game, and then the last month or so has been difficult for a lot of reasons and I think my performance dropped off, so I wanted to get back to getting to the top of my game and I felt that way tonight.”
Stefan Ishizaki capped the scoring in the 37th minute, tracking down a Sarvas through-ball on the counter and one-touching a right-footed shot into the far corner.
The scoreline could have been even more lopsided had the Galaxy—who outshot the Sounders 11-3 in the first half alone—converted a few good looks. Zardes nearly added a fourth goal before halftime, but Frei delivered a double-save to deny a pair of close-range shots. Ishizaki also nearly picked up a brace, forcing Frei into a diving fingertip save from 17 yards out in the 79th minute.
The Galaxy (8-4-6, 30 points) had an eight-game unbeaten streak snapped last week, but have now won three of their last four matches and have worked themselves back into the thick of the playoff hunt.
“We looked sharp and, you know, it’s midyear right now,” said Arena. “Everyone is still finding themselves. We’re just beginning to get our team on the field. After a half a season of misery, having to deal with the injuries and the absences and all that, hopefully we’ll get a little bit more of a solidified unit.”
The loss ends a six-game home winning streak for the Sounders (12-5-2, 38 points), who hadn’t lost at home since March 29.
The Sounders—missing defenders Chad Marshall, Djimi Traore, and Leo Gonzalez to injury—looked pedestrian at best in defense, and discombobulated in attack. The Galaxy front line operated in acres of space throughout the first half, while the Sounders continually struggled to connect passes.
Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid, never afraid to blast his players after a blowout loss, generally took a diplomatic approach after the match.
“It’s just one of those things,” Schmid said. “We didn’t connect passes early in the game. They put a lot of pressure on us. We lost confidence in our passing early out of the back. We lost confidence in that, so we are lumping up 50-50 balls. We lost a majority of the duels in the game. As a result of that, they had more (goals). So today they were better.”
Schmid’s players were not so easy on themselves.
“That was one of the worst (45 minutes) I can even remember playing,” said veteran defender Zach Scott. “I think from top to bottom there wasn’t a single guy who could say they played anywhere near their potential.”
The hosts didn’t manage a shot on target until the 59th minute, when Dempsey created space for himself and took a 16-yard, left-footed shot that goalkeeper Jaime Penedo easily corralled.
“Letting in three goals is ridiculous,” said Scott. “I’m embarrassed.”
Both teams are back in action on Saturday. The Sounders visit the San Jose Earthquakes (5-8-5, 20 points), while the Galaxy host the Portland Timbers (6-6-9, 21 points).