LA Galaxy vs. Seattle Sounders: 5 Things We Learned
The Los Angeles Galaxy defeated the Seattle Sounders 1-0 in the first leg of the Western Conference Final at the StubHub Center on Sunday. Marcelo Sarvas scored the only goal of the match.
This scoreline gives the Galaxy a slight edge entering the second game in Seattle. The Sounders may be in tough given that they failed to get a decisive away goal.
There were a few takeaways from Sunday's affair which decided the match and could have an impact on the second leg. Here are five things that we learned in the conference final.
The Sounders Missed Osvaldo Alonso
Midfield stalwart Osvaldo Alonso had to miss the game due to a hamstring injury, per MLSSoccer.com. He was replaced by Micheal Azira, who previously appeared in 14 matches in his first season with Seattle.
Azira was solid, but it's difficult to lose someone of Alonso's caliber before a game of this significance. The midfield partnership between the Cuban and Gonzalo Pineda was one of the best in the regular season.
That form continued during the playoffs, but it's difficult to regain that level of chemistry in a short amount of time. Azira's presence was one of the reasons why the Galaxy had a bit more space to work with compared to Dallas in the semifinals a couple of weeks ago.
LA Targeted the Right Flank and Will Do the Same in the 2nd Leg
It was clear from the get-go that the Galaxy targeted the right flank where Sounders full-back Leo Gonzalez was positioned. The Costa Rican is slightly more defensively sound than DeAndre Yedlin, but Gonzalez is also slower than his American teammate.
That lack of pace allowed Stefan Ishizaki, Juninho and A.J. DeLaGarza to operate freely and deliver crosses into the box. Many of them didn't amount to anything, but Sarvas' goal was created through that flank.
Since Gonzalez isn't able to keep up with some of LA's attackers, he required some help from Marco Pappa and Azira. The latter two had to move from their positions over to the wing, and it gave the Galaxy enough time to set up the goal.
Neither Side Was Defensively Compact
The score was only 1-0, but neither side was defensively stingy. Thirty shots were allowed by both teams, per MLSSoccer.com. Only six were on target, but conceding that amount is dangerous.
LA and Seattle managed to close down the opposing striker duo relatively well, but they still had their opportunities—especially Clint Dempsey, who was stopped at point-blank range by Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo a couple of times.
The Goalkeepers Kept Their Teams Alive
Speaking of Penedo, both goalkeepers were outstanding on Sunday. Both custodians combined to make seven saves, but they were all crucial stops and kept their teams in the match.
Penedo was especially solid. His defense had some momentary lapses and allowed Dempsey to have a clear shot on goal; however, the Panamanian's quick reflexes preserved the 0-0 scoreline.
Stefan Frei also deserves some credit. He closed down his angles, stayed in position and confidently dealt with set pieces. The only downside was the goal he allowed, but there wasn't much he could do about it.
Frei and Penedo will most likely be key figures in the second leg.
Chad Marshall Is the Best Defender in MLS
Sounders center back Chad Marshall was incredible yet again. Not only did he help contain Robbie Keane, Gyasi Zardes and Landon Donovan but he may have saved Seattle's season with a late block on Alan Gordon's shot in second-half stoppage time.
When Marshall missed the first meeting against the Galaxy in July, the Sounders defense was in shambles. Since his return, Seattle has looked a lot tidier against the four-time MLS Cup champions.
The Sounders have only conceded three goals in the last three games against the Galaxy with Marshall in the lineup. The Supporters' Shield winners preserved a clean sheet in the final regular-season match against LA, and there's a real possibility of Seattle shutting down the Californians.