MLS Cup Playoffs 2014: LA Galaxy vs. Seattle Sounders 1st-Leg Score and Reaction

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistNovember 24, 2014

Seattle Sounders FC defender Deindre Yedlin, left, falls as Los Angeles Galaxy forward Robbie Keane goes after the ball during the first half of a Major League Soccer playoff game, Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

The LA Galaxy booked a 1-0 win over the Seattle Sounders in the first leg of MLS' Western Conference Final on Sunday, setting up an interesting scenario for next week's return leg with an eye on the MLS Cup. 

The new away-goals rule means that if the Galaxy score once in Seattle, the Sounders will need three to progress to the next round. That fixture, which will be played on Sunday, should provide fans with a lot more drama and excitement than today's nervy affair.    

Seattle started the match on fire, immediately applying high pressure and displaying a lot of physicality in the duels. DeAndre Yedlin was booked after just three minutes for an apparent elbow on Robbie Keane, although the veteran certainly contributed to the incident.

Inside MLS was hardly surprised:

Inside MLS @InsideMLS

3' And the elbows are already flying! Yellow card for Sounders' DeAndre Yedlin for a foul on Robbie Keane

The ball went up and down the pitch really well in the opening stages, and Keane came close to opening the score just one minute later, but his acrobatic effort missed the target. The MLS' Twitter feed had a nice angle of the action, right behind the goal:

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Major League Soccer @MLS

So close Keano. #LAvSEA https://t.co/dMC4j5814U

Gyasi Zardes then forced Stefan Frei into action for the first time with a well-taken shot, but the goalkeeper was equal to the task.

The Sounders' first chance came from a tricky corner that wasn't dealt with well by the hosts, before Jaime Penedo dove onto the ball to avoid disaster. Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey then forced the 33-year-old into a great double save, prompting this tweet from MLS' feed:

Major League Soccer @MLS

#SanPenedo. Wowwww. #LAvSEA

Sounders Matchday gave the stopper his due:

Sounders Matchday @LIVESounders

20’ - PENEDO WITH TWO WORLDYS! In tight he denies Clint and then Oba. Best chances of the match. 0-0 SOMEHOW.

Keane wanted a penalty in the 31st minute, but replays showed nothing to suggest any of the Sounders defenders had done anything wrong. Martins then got his foot onto a long ball from a free kick, but his shot went over the bar.

Seattle had the better chances at this stage of the match, but Penedo continued to make one fine save after the other. Not to be outdone, Frei produced one final stop before halftime, reacting well to keep out a corner kick.

Still scoreless at halftime, Goal's Ives Galarcep thought the Galaxy did a good job controlling possession but that the hosts were fortunate to have Penedo manning the goal:

Ives Galarcep @SoccerByIves

HT-Galaxy 0, Sounders 0. LA w/a ton of possession, & some good looks, but no goals. That said, they could also be down if not for Penedo

Some great passing from Martins and Dempsey had the Panama stopper stealing the spotlight five minutes into the second half, saving a cheeky chip from the latter. Galarcep warned the hosts:

Ives Galarcep @SoccerByIves

Penedo with ANOTHER big save. Galaxy living dangerously, lucky to have it still at 0-0. Dempsey could have a few goals already.

Los Angeles committed more bodies forward in the second half to take advantage of its advantage in possession, and Frei had to intervene when a loose ball nearly bounced off a Sounders player's leg and into the net.

He was powerless to deny Marcelo Sarvas' deflected effort, however, as the hosts took the lead 52 minutes in. His shot bounced off Chad Marshall's foot and past Frei, as shown by Raza Deportiva:

Raza Deportiva @RazaESPN

VIDEO Gol de Marcelo Sarvas. @LAGalaxy 1:0 Seattle #LAvSEA https://t.co/kKndqFmfjo

Frei was furious with his defenders for not picking up the free man, and ITV's Kristan Heneage believed he had every right to be:

Kristan Heneage @KHeneage

Frei has every right to be furious at his defence there. Chronically slow to get out to Sarvas there.

The Galaxy immediately pushed for a second and came close as a Landon Donovan cross was nearly deviated into the net by both Sarvas and Zardes. Martins and Dempsey were receiving no help in the attacking third of Seattle, making the hosts' defensive assignments that much easier.

For all of its efforts, Seattle hardly produced any danger of note. Martins had a chance on the break but went looking for his strike partner, wasting a window for an opportunity with a poor pass. 

The hosts easily held possession thanks to the Sounders' inability to chase the ball into open areas, and NBC's Arlo White was worried their tendency to hang around the box instead of clearing upfield could lead to even more trouble:

Arlo White @arlowhite

#Sounders cannot continue to be so slow out of defence. They are clearing and standing on the edge of the pen area. Inviting trouble.

Arlo White @arlowhite

I'm looking at Marshall & Scott and want one of them to scream OUT. Two terrific defenders but not vocal.

The level of the match dropped following a host of substitutions, with neither team looking particularly threatening in the attacking third. A 1-0 win for Los Angeles seemed the logical conclusion with 10 minutes left to play, and both teams were content to defend and head for the dressing room with such a score.

KICK TV's Jimmy Conrad congratulated the hosts, but he's sure the fans will see a whole different match in the return leg:

Jimmy Conrad @JimmyConrad

A "good game" shout to @LAGalaxy for their 1-0 win at home but the Sounders (and their fans) will have a lot more to say about this in leg 2

A one-goal lead is a slim one for LA, but the new away-goals rule gives the team a big advantage heading into the return match next Sunday. A single goal would force Seattle to score three to advance, and against an in-form Penedo, that will be easier said than done.

CenturyLink Field is one of the toughest stadiums to visit in the MLS, but after the first leg, the Galaxy should feel good about their chances of qualifying for the MLS Cup on Dec. 7. 

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