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Landon Donovan, Edson Buddle Return as L.A. Galaxy Top Seattle Sounders, 3-1

Bill HareCorrespondent IJuly 5, 2010

CARSON, CA - JULY 04:  Landon Donovan #10 of the Los Angeles Galaxy takes a corner kick against the Seattle Sounders FC on July 4, 2010 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California.  Donovan is playing in his first MLS game since returning from the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.  (Photo by Jeff Golden/Getty Images)
Jeff Golden/Getty Images

There is a three-step process that has propelled the Los Angeles Galaxy to its pedestal atop the MLS this season.

It is pressure, pressure, and more pressure.

This was the formula employed before a sellout crowd of 27,000 the evening of July 4 at Home Depot Center in Carson, as Galaxy home patrons were treated to the return of U.S. team members Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle from World Cup competition.

There were comments about Donovan feeling tired legs on the Carson pitch, but don’t tell that to the Sounders, who saw the same dazzling virtuoso who took control of the Galaxy offense and performed set pieces in the same devastating fashion that has come to be expected.

Seattle Coach Sigi Schmid knew going in that to stand a chance of upsetting the Western Conference leaders with the premier record in the MSL, his team would need sufficient possessions to neutralize the firepower of Donovan and Buddle.

Schmid also realized that. While Los Angeles had lost to Real Salt Lake 1-0 and been deadlocked 0-0 by Toronto in its last two contests, those matches occurred without the services of Donovan and Buddle.

One fact provides enough of a clue as to how the first half went: The home team had nine corner kicks the visiting Sounders' none.

With L.A. maintaining solid pressure and Seattle doomed to insufficient ball possession, it was only a matter of time before a goal would be scored despite accomplished efforts from goalkeeper and captain Kasey Keller and stalwart defenders Leo Gonzalez and Tyrone Marshall.

Landon Donovan is to set pieces what Newton was to science: Accomplished mastery.  Give Donovan enough chances and he will convert.

This is what occurred with the Sounders in the 19th minute on one of those nine corner kicks the Galaxy took in the first half.

Donovan’s accuracy on corner kicks is devastating.  He threaded the needle once more, placing the ball just in front of the net, giving U.S. World Cup teammate Buddle a crack at a header.

The combo lit up the scoreboard once more as the ball swept into the net and the Galaxy had a 1-0 lead.  They would lead from that point through the remainder of the evening.

Donovan came into the game leading the MLS in assists with nine, while Buddle was league-leader in goals scored at the identical figure.  They still lead, only now it is with 10 apiece.

Sounders television play-by-play commentator Arlo White spoke with Sigi Schmid during the first half.  Schmid expressed concern over his midfield play and revealed that there would be changes in the second half.  He said that the good news was that his team was only down 1-0.

In the first meeting between the teams in Seattle, which the Galaxy won 4-0 on one goal and three assists by Donovan, the score was 1-0 at halftime.

History repeated itself at Home Depot Center and Schmid made good on his comment about making second half changes by putting in the recently returned Nate Jaqua to replace Pat Noonan at the 45-minute mark.

Rookie Michael Seamon, only a month beyond graduating from Villanova University, came in at the 51-minute juncture, replacing former Galaxy stalwart Peter Vagenas.

Despite the fact that the Sounders fared better in the ball possession category and L.A. would add just two corner kicks to the nine obtained in a highly-dominating first half, the high level scoring potential remained for the home team.

That talent was in evidence when Brazilian Juninho on a free kick netted one of the most spectacular goals of the MLS 2010 season from 30 yards out in the 48th minute.  Arlo White was so impressed that he named Juninho his “Man of the Match.”

Kasey Keller made a valiant effort at a save, leaping high, but the Juninho accurate bullet was indefensible.  One could do nothing but admire, as with Donovan in set pieces.

Seattle was not ready to go away, as evidenced by what happened in the 66th minute.

Steve Zakuani used his blazing speed to find a crease and streak toward the goal after receiving a pass from Fredy Montero, with veteran defender Alan Gordon, who had replaced Buddle at the 62-minute mark, in hot pursuit.

Zakuani footed the ball into the net and had his fifth goal of the season.  The only sad element of the Zakuani score is that this was the first time that one of his tallies had not produced a Sounders win.  Seattle stood at 5-0-3 during that period.

Zakuani’s five-goal total ties him for the team lead alongside Montero who, in notching his sixth assist, extends his team lead and places him in a tie for third in that category within the MLS.

That perennial Galaxy pressure yielded the final goal of the night.  It came on the lone own goal conceded by the Sounders this season.  The result standing alone is deceptive and demands explanation.

The ball had rocketed toward the Seattle goal.  As Kasey Keller sprawled forward to reel it in, defender James Riley, who had a much closer opportunity, dove into position in an effort to corral it.

During that process, the ball squirted past the outstretched Keller and into the net.  Riley had made a magnificent effort to reach the ball.  But one other important fact needs to be inserted.

The seemingly omnipresent Donovan was standing just behind Riley, who undoubtedly knew it.  Had Riley not made his dive, Donovan would have been in a position to score.

At game’s end, the Galaxy had a 15-9 edge in shots, along with a 5-4 advantage in shots on goal.  L.A. had 11 corner kicks to Seattle's one.  This ties a Sounders team record for fewest corner efforts.

After the game Donovan made a sporting gesture.  He removed his shirt and gave it to promising young Colombian rookie striker Miguel Montano, who had replaced Freddie Ljungberg in the 83rd minute.  The delighted Montano returned the favor.

Considering how observant superior players can be, one wonders if the gesture was more than sporting kindness.  Montano had come into the game late against the Galaxy in Seattle as well, and looked sharp both times, pressing the offense.

Does the great Landon Donovan see stardom in Miguel Montano’s future?

The Galaxy win moves the Western Conference leader into an even more commanding position with a glossy 11-1-3 mark.  At 36 points, they are a full nine points ahead of second-place rival Real Salt Lake.

The Sounders have now lost three games in a row for the first time in history and stand at 4-8-3 with 15 points.  The team remains in seventh place.

Schmid said afterward that the Sounders performed better and looked more solid at midfield during the second half, but dismissed the overall effort as poor.

He exclaimed further that team pride should propel the Sounders to a better effort when they receive another crack at the Galaxy Wednesday, July 7, at their training center at the Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila, Washington.

The 7 p.m. contest is a quarterfinal match in the Sounders’ defense of their Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup championship.

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