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Landon's Last Stand: Picked Up

Paolo Uggetti |
November 23, 2014 | 5:54 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Landon Donovan's teammates came through and led the Galaxy to a win over the Sounders in the MLS Western Conference Final. (@LAGConfidential/Twitter)
Landon Donovan's teammates came through and led the Galaxy to a win over the Sounders in the MLS Western Conference Final. (@LAGConfidential/Twitter)

The last time that the Los Angeles Galaxy played the Seattle Sounders, the regular season was wrapping up and the Supporter’s Shield was up for grabs. In that matchup, Seattle scored two late goals in both matches to earn the shield and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. 

This time around, in the first leg of the Western Conference Finals against those same Seattle Sounders, the Galaxy dominated play and achieved half of their revenge via a 1-0 victory over their West Coast rivals. 

“It was the game we thought we’d see,” said Coach Bruce Arena afterward. 

”We made adjustments from those two games we played them at the end of the year,” Landon Donovan said afterward. “We feel confident about where we are at now.”

Amidst the hate-filled, expletive-ridden chants toward Clint Dempsey by the Galaxy faithful, Donovan’s role in this win was as punitive as it could get for the soon-to-be-retired Galaxy star. A single corner kick filled his stat sheet and nothing else, but in the end, it failed to matter. 

Behind the incredible work of midfielder Stefan Ishizaki, the immaculate goalkeeping of Jaime Penedo and the crucial goal by Marcelo Sarvas, as well as the stellar defending of Robbie Rogers, Donovan’s teammates picked him up and continued their now 21-game unbeaten streak at home. 

READ MORE: Landon's Last Stand: Staying Alive

More importantly, they now have something they did not have last time they traveled to Seattle for the second leg of a series: A lead. 

A lead that leaves them only a draw away from reaching their 7th MLS Cup Final. 

“The first objective was to not get scored on,” said Landon. “Keeping that team scoreless is not easy.” 

It was especially important given the frequency at which the Galaxy attacked the net and finished empty-handed. 

Chances here, chances there, chances everywhere. Not only did the Galaxy dominate possession by a 60-40 percent advantage, but their scoring chances were in abundance.

“Obviously there were some chances to get a second,” Coach Bruce Arena said afterward.  “But not conceding [a goal] is important.”

It was clear that the Galaxy should have easily had more goals, but their aggressiveness throughout the match certainly did not fail to shine through. 

From the get go, their relentless attack put the Sounders on their heels, as they packed the 18-yard box in response to the constant crosses from the L.A. wingers. 

The 27 total crosses did little for the home squad, however, as they simply could not find the back of the net.

A shot by Ishizaki off a free-kick hit the crossbar, multiple opportunities missed by captain forward Robbie Keane and a plethora of broken-down attacks left the Galaxy in a vulnerable position.  

The last time they were not able to put the ball in the net against Seattle, the Sounders scored two in the last five minutes of the match to win the Supporter’s Shield. 

The offensive attack was flowing like the chants at the StubHub Center, but the goals were not falling. Too many touches and not enough shots on goal were the proverbial evidence that the Galaxy’s finishing was experiencing a mediocre drought. 

But in the end, their lack of efficiency mattered none. Perhaps fitting of their unproductive attack was the way in which they finally got the all-important deciding score. 

In the 60th minute, yet another cross from the right side by defender A.J. DeLaGarza found an open Sarvas, who struck a ball that would have otherwise been saved by the Seattle goalkeeper had it not deflected into the net by one of the defenders. 

A lucky goal, but a goal nonetheless. Even a deserving one given the way the Galaxy dominated the entire match. 

The Sounders’ attempts on goal total of 10 was doubled by the Galaxy, who also completed nearly 200 more passes than their counterparts. 

“We did a good job, especially in the second half, of exploiting the right side of the field,” said Donovan. “Getting the goal was important ... we just weren’t quite sharp enough to get the second.”

It was clear that Seattle’s strategy was much like it had been in past duels: Defend first, get on the counter-attack and try to find one of the forwards for what would have been a colossal goal. 

For 60 minutes their strategy functioned adequately, but after the goal finally went in, they were left in no man’s land, just waiting to return to Seattle and try to earn their pass to the MLS Cup at home. 

Both Donovan and Arena praised the work of Penedo in the net, who, along the defense, has contributed to the fact that the Galaxy have yet to concede a goal in these playoffs. 

Jaime Penedo made key saves to keep the Sounders scoreless. (@LAGalaxy/Twitter)
Jaime Penedo made key saves to keep the Sounders scoreless. (@LAGalaxy/Twitter)

“Jaime’s been great,” Donovan remarked. “When we’ve needed him to make a big save he has.” 

READ MORE: Landon's Last Stand: The Final Home Game

The physicality of this matchup has become all but an expected formality. Four more yellow cards were handed out, and the chippiness between the teams escalated quickly to levels seen in past matches. 

“You have to play that way this time of the year,” Donovan said. “It’s gonna be even more physical next week and that’s okay, we can play that way.” 

Another physical match is expected next Sunday, when the Sounders attempt to feed off their home crowd and remount a win on the cusp of elimination. 

For the Galaxy, a trip up north gives them not only a chance to advance to the finals, but also a chance at redeeming their loss from a few weeks ago where Donovan himself says they should have won. 

“We were the much better team for the first 86 minutes,” he said referring to their 2-0 loss on Oct. 25 in Seattle.  “We’ve been there twice this year. We’re confident.”

For Donovan, he will be playing for a chance to come back to Los Angeles to play one final time and finish his career in the most ideal way possible: By winning a championship.

After today’s win, only a draw stands in his way.  

 Reach Staff Reporter Paolo Uggetti here or follow him on Twitter.



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