The LA Galaxy looked every bit the part of defending MLS Cup champions on Sunday in the first leg of their Western Conference final against the Seattle Sounders. They were explosive, inventive and thanks to two goals by Robbie Keane and another by Mike Magee, they were also 3-0 winners at the Home Depot Center.
Seattle came out conservative, seemingly content to try to hold possession with five midfielders. That plan may have worked fine if they had a striker who could hold the ball up, but that isn't what Fredy Montero does so the plan fell apart. As the match went on, the Sounders did less and less going forward, which just gave the Galaxy's dangerous attack more and more of the ball.
The Galaxy were only too happy to take advantage. After struggling to turn possession into chances for much of the first half, they went on front just before the break thanks to the potent Landon Donovan to Robbie Keane connection. Sean Franklin got free down the right and crossed low to the middle, where Donovan was waiting. The American gathered and dribbled to the end line, where he chipped all the way across to the back post. Keane was waiting there completely unmarked, leaving him an easy header to put the Galaxy in front.
The second half was a Galaxy onslaught, with them running at the Sounders for the entire period. Keane, Donovan, Mike Magee and Christian Wilhelmsson were pressing all half and their constant interchanging gave the Sounders problems. Ozvaldo Alonso dropped deep, but even MLS's best defensive midfielder couldn't do enough to help track the Galaxy's runners.
Just after the hour mark, LA doubled their lead on the counterattack, breaking quickly through Keane. He took the ball straight up the middle and put the Seattle defense on its heels before sliding a perfect ball in behind the back line for Franklin. The speedy right back got to the ball and with his first touch crossed for Magee, who was all alone in front of the goal. Magee finished simply and the Galaxy's prolific postseason scorer had another playoff tally to add to his name.
Three minutes later, the Galaxy made it 3-0 thanks to a bit of fortune. A Donovan shot from distance was blocked and fell right into the path of Wilhelmsson, who brought the ball down with his chest and poked it past Michael Gspurning. The ball looked goal bound, but Keane made sure, knocking it over the line to make it a three-goal Galaxy advantage.
LA continued to press even up 3-0 and could have added a couple more tallies, but Gspurning denied them with a tremendous save once and Seattle cleared a ball off the line to keep their lead where it was.
Seattle did finally get a bit of an attack going late, even getting a penalty shout as the LA defense scrambled in their own box, but it was not to be. The defending champions were too good and the scoreline was reflective of their dominance.
The second leg of the Western Conference final will be next Sunday, November 18 at 9 p.m. ET in Seattle. The Sounders trailed 3-0 after the first leg of their conference semifinal last season and almost came back at home, winning 2-0 and getting several chance to equalize, so they know the deficit isn't insurmountable, but it will be tough against the high flying Galaxy.