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The Los Angeles Galaxy knew what they needed to do tonight, and they got it 19 minutes into the first half. The Edson Buddle header off a David Beckham corner and the Omar Gonzalez diving header off a David Beckham free kick were enough to carry the Galaxy through the second half, as they ended up wrapping up the Western Conference semifinal 3-1 on aggregate.
"Obviously it's a very good win for our team," coach Bruce Arena said in his post game press conference. "I thought we played very well in the first half, second half we were a little sloppy in the last twenty minutes. Perhaps had we been a little smarter, a little sharper we'd have the opportunity to get that third goal and really kill the game. Give Seattle credit they never quit, they hung in with us right to the end. It was a tough battle for 95 minutes."
Seattle did manage to score in the 86' which created some artificial drama as everything came to a close. Refusing to go quietly into the LA night, Nate Jaqua found Steve Zakuani on the left side of the goal box. Zakuani was able to maneuver past Omar Gonzalez and place the ball behind Donovan Ricketts as the Sounders gave the 500 fans that traveled down with them a little token to cheer about.
For the other 26,500 in attendance, tonight was all about the Galaxy. Despite letting in that one late goal, Ricketts was fantastic in the second half, and he had to be. Seattle went from just 3 shots in the first half to 10 in the second. As the Galaxy got a bit sloppy in the back, Ricketts prevented at least one goal all by himself, after Montero had broken through and was alone but for the Galaxy keeper. Outside of that save and the Seattle goal, the other eight second half attempts didn't come close, as Fredy Montero had trouble getting the ball down on any of his five second half shots. Ricketts went down in a scary second half moment; the stretcher was brought out, but it turned out he was just cleated and was able to continue after taking some time to shake it off.
The Galaxy and Seattle each managed to earn a yellow card over the course of the game. David Beckham picked up a yellow in the first half for a sliding tackle that the ref deemed too harsh. In the 65' Patrick Ianni grabbed ahold of Edson Buddle's jersey and refused to let go. All in all it was a very aggressive game as the two sides tacked up 25 fouls between them.
After four David Beckham corners in the first half, the Galaxy only had one in the second. Seattle didn't manage any corners in the first, as the first half was pretty much all LA Galaxy. Same story for the Galaxy with shots on goal, in the second half they didn't have any. With a bit more sharpness the Galaxy could have gotten a third goal and really put things to rest, but for the last 20 mins they played like they already knew they were going through.
With tonight's result the Galaxy now get to play host to FC Dallas next week, in the Western Conference final. In a bit of coincidence, all four teams remaining in the MLS Cup playoffs are from the Western Conference, despite San Jose and Colorado playing for the Eastern Conference title. The game will be at 6:00 at Home Depot Center, broadcast on ESPN and ESPN3.
The Los Angeles Galaxy went into tonight's match knowing they were up 1-0 on aggregate, and hearing the criticism that they played too defensively in the first leg. They decided to address both concerns in the first half, as an aggressive attacking Galaxy team came out and put two goals on the scoreboard in the first half. Both goals were created by the foot of David Beckham, and the heads of Edson Buddle and Omar Gonzalez respectively.
The first goal came in the 19' after Landon Donovan and Eddie Lewis used the 1-2 pass to find space on the end line, but Lewis' cross was knocked out for a Galaxy corner. Beckham lined up to take it, and hit a cross from the right corner that fell onto Edson Buddle who was in the middle of the pile. Buddle didn't have to strike it hard, just direct it into the far corner for the Galaxy's first goal.
The second goal came in the 27', on another LA Galaxy set piece. David Beckham spotted the ball on to the keepers left, and hit the ball so it feel to the near end of the pile. The ball connected with a diving Omar Gonzalez, for his third goal of the season and the second against Seattle this year.
Despite giving up two goals, Sounders keeper and captain Kasey Keller saved as many as he let in. Donovan Ricketts wasn't tested until the 32' when he got his first of two first half saves off an Osvaldo Alonso shot. While the goal certainly sweetened the deal, Omar Gonzalez has had a fantastic game so far in the back with A.J. DeLaGarza, ensuring that Ricketts only saw three shots the entire first half.
Los Angeles Galaxy
1 Donovan Ricketts GK
28 Sean Franklin DEF
20 A.J. DeLaGarza DEF
4 Omar Gonzalez DEF
6 Eddie Lewis DEF
23 David Beckham MID
19 Juninho MID
21 Dema Kovalenko MID
10 Landon Donovan MID – Captain
14 Edson Buddle FWD
18 Mike Magee FWD
Seattle Sounders FC
18 Kasey Keller GK – Captain
7 James Riley DEF
14 Tyrone Marshall DEF
4 Patrick Ianni DEF
19 Leo Gonzalez DEF
23 Sanna Nyassi MID
6 Osvaldo Alonso MID
12 Nathan Sturgis MID
11 Steve Zakuani MID
17 Fredy Montero FWD
9 Blaise Nkufo FWD
The Los Angeles Galaxy (18-7-5, 59pts) are one of two teams who came out of the away leg of their aggregate series ahead on goals, with New York Red Bulls being the other. However, the Galaxy don't want to repeat New York's second leg mistakes against the Seattle Sounders FC at the Home Depot Center on Sunday night. Because of the result the Galaxy were able to get in Seattle, they advance to the next round with a draw or a win. The Galaxy are 19-2-1 at home in the playoffs all time, and 5-0-1 at Home Depot Center, the draw a 2-2 affair with Chivas USA last year.
The Los Angeles Galaxy marched into Seattle Sounders territory and came out victorious on the strength of Edson Buddle's foot. In a game where the Galaxy played 90 minutes of defensive soccer, much to the chagrin of certain pundits, Buddle simply lofted the ball over an out of place keeper for the game's only goal. No buildup, no play in place, just a striker recognizing an opportunity.
"I don’t know how he pulled that off to be honest with you. That’s a turf goal," Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. "[There were] a lot of turf plays – balls bouncing around, off shins, up in the air, out of bounds. We don’t want to make too many copies of this game and distribute it around the world."
As to the defensive play, it doesn't look likely that the Galaxy break away from that gameplan. The two way play of David Beckham and Landon Donovan in the wide midfield positions was one of the keys to shutting down Seattle's high performance offense. With Landon Donovan play in midfield again, Mike Magee joined Edson Buddle on the attack.
"I think we still have to be cautious in many ways," David Beckham said. "I still think that we have to do our job in defending, that doesn't stop just because we're at home in front of our fans."
Omar Gonzalez and A.J. DeLaGarza started in the back despite Gregg Berhalter being cleared fit for match play. This was their fifth straight pairing in central defense and their second clean sheet as a pair. Berhalter did make a late cameo, but coach Arena has said Gonzalez and DeLaGarza are likely to get the start again on Sunday.
"We know they have a lot of speed so going into the game we just knew that we had to keep them in front of us, keep the game in front of us," Gonzalez said. "The midfielders and forwards did a great job of putting pres- sure on them and made it really easy and predictable for us to go into challenges."
The problems for Seattle coming into tonight's match are many. Despite their excellent record in Open Cup play, they are currently working on a 300 minute goalless streak in MLS Cup play. Centerback Jeff Parke suffered an ankle injury midway through the second half. Parke started 20 games for Seattle, and was replaced in game by Tyrone Marshall who made just six starts during the regular season. The Sounders have only won once at Home Depot Center in their brief history, against the Galaxy last year, but are also (0-2-1) against Chivas USA at HDC. Seattle may however gain an advantage in the way HDC plays wider than Quest Field, meaning Donovan and Beckham on the wings have to play spread out.
Seattle fans are also showing their rabid nature, allegedly bringing down 500 away supporters to HDC. The grass end of the Home Depot Center has been opened, so likely tonight's match will be a loud, sold out affair. When asked about the crowd noise, Landon Donovan said:
"We've all played enough games where we can tune that out, but it was a lot of fun for us to play in that atmosphere. It's great that they're committed enough to come down here. It'll make for a better atmosphere in our stadium. With our fans and their fans it'll be a good night."
In his second year being nominated, and his second year in MLS, Donovan Ricketts of the Los Angeles Galaxy has won Goalkeeper of the Year. Ricketts won the award over former Galaxy keeper Kevin Hartman now with FC Dallas and Nick Rimando of Real Salt Lake. Donovan Ricketts and Kevin Hartman are the only keepers in Galaxy history to win the award. He is only the second foreign goalkeeper to win the award.
“This is a tremendous honor to be named the Goalkeeper of the Year in a league with so many outstanding goalkeepers. I am grateful to have won this award and I would like to thank everyone who voted for me,” Ricketts said. “I would also like to thank all of my coaches and teammates, specifically my goalkeeper coach Ian Feuer and my fellow goalkeeper Josh Saunders for pushing me as hard as they do in training everyday and helping me to become a better goalkeeper.”
After a fantastic away goal from Edson Buddle in Seattle, the Los Angeles Galaxy are up 1-0 over the Seattle Sounders in a two leg aggregate series. This Sunday at the Home Depot Center, the Galaxy are tasked with closing out the series, with a win or a draw taking them through to the Western Conference Championship. The Sounders need to win by two goals or more to move on, a one goal Sounders victory will send the series into a 30 minute overtime, with penalty kicks at the end if necessary. Should the Galaxy emerge victorious, they will face the winner of FC Dallas - Real Salt lake at the Home Depot Center Next week. FC Dallas is up 2-1 in that series, but Real Salt Lake's goal is an away goal, so they can take the series with just one goal at Rio Tinto stadium.
All time the Galaxy are 19-2-1 at home at the Home Depot Center in MLS Cup play, outscoring opponents 55-16. The last time the Galaxy lost a home playoff game was 1998, falling to Chicago in the Western Conference Finals. Since that game the Galaxy have won 15 of 16.
Since adopting the current format, the Galaxy have reached the playoffs five times and have gone 3-1-1 in the first leg...Edson Buddle's 38' goal was his first postseason goal of his career...Donovan Ricketts made a season high eight saves en route to a clean sheet.