Otto Greule Jr
The Galaxy flirted with disaster, but managed to hold off the Sounders and advance to their second consecutive MLS Cup and third in the last four years.
The LA Galaxy are heading back to MLS Cup after holding off the Seattle Sounders on Sunday night at CenturyLink Field. The Sounders actually won the match, 2-1, but that wasn't enough to make up the 3-0 lead that the Galaxy built in the first leg of the Western Conference final, giving LA a 4-2 aggregate win.
LA will meet the Houston Dynamo on December 1 for MLS Cup in a rematch of last year's final. Just like last year, the final will be at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA, the Galaxy's reward for finishing the regular season with a better point total than the Dynamo.
The Sounders jumped all over the Galaxy early and looked very much capable of making the improbable comeback. Eddie Johnson scored just 12 minutes in to make it 3-1 on aggregate and Seattle spent much of the first half in the LA half. They created chances, only to see their finishing betray them, or some last ditch Galaxy defending turn their attempts away.
Seattle was unlucky to score just once in the first half, but they played well at the start of the second half, too, and scored just before the hour mark to get within a goal of the defending MLS Cup champions. Zach Scott lost his marker on a corner kick and hit a terrific diving header from a sharp angle that left Josh Saunders no chance. The ball found the net and the 44,575 fans in attendance exploded. Seattle's comeback was almost complete.
But just when it looked as if the Sounders might actually be able to turn a three-goal deficit around, the Galaxy put the tie on ice. Robbie Keane found himself near the endline in the box and out of options, hit a hopeful cross, only the ball never made it far. Instead, it hit Adam Johansson's outstretched arm and the referee pointed to the spot. Keane then stepped up and buried his penalty kick, putting LA up 4-2 on aggregate, a lead they would hold until the end.
The match was not without its controversy, though. Just before Johnson scored his first, he found the back of the net, but the assistance referee incorrectly ruled him offside. LA had a penalty shout in the first half, too, but that was waved off. Toss in the Sounders' outrage at Johansson's handball because he didn't have a chance to react, even though his arm was clearly outstretched, and referee Mark Geiger had enough important calls to make that controversy was inevitable.
In the end, LA's 3-0 win in the first leg proved to be too much for Seattle to overcome. The injury to Mauro Rosales, which limited him to just a late substitue in the second leg was a major blow and even though the Galaxy was without Landon Donovan in Seattle, the Sounders couldn't close the gap. LA is MLS Cup bound for the second consecutive year and third time in the last for seasons.