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Drilling down on: at Seattle Sounders 2, L.A. Galaxy 1

Nov 18, 2012, 11:37 PM EDT

alonso head shot

It was something less than convincing – and that’s being kind – but the Galaxy came into Seattle and left with just enough.

It will be difficult for Bruce Arena’s Galaxy to feel warm and wonderful about a 2-1 loss, but they can sure like the opportunity that results from Sunday’s, er, “achievement” at CenturyLink Field: a chance to defend their MLS Cup inside their very own building.

Eddie Johnson’s early goal and another from Zach Scott kept hope afloat, but a controversial penalty kick for the visitors turned things in favor of the champs.

So the Galaxy prevailed in the two-leg, total goals series by a 4-2 margin and stands once again as Western Conference champion.

(MORE: Match highlights are here)

Man of the Match:

The midfield Sunday was no contest. At all. Seattle’s Osvaldo Alonso, assisted by central partner Brad Evans, crushed the Galaxy in the center of the park. The league’s top ball-winner did his usual bouncing around, and his distribution was sharp and precise. But his game had a better tactical discipline than we sometimes see. He remained central and kept himself out of tackles and tussles that might incur referee wrath. When Alonso did get a booking, it looked like a smart one to take.

Threesome of knowledge: What we learned

One decision can change everything:

The Galaxy didn’t have much going right in this one; they were beaten pretty well all over the field.

It looked so much different from the day’s earlier match, where Houston came into a hostile environment with a lead and a plan, and nursed home the mission a certain calm and cool.

The Galaxy looked surprisingly rattled and even a little overwhelmed. They were without Landon Donovan (sore hamstring) and didn’t have central midfielder Juninho until the second half. Still, there was plenty of experience out there.

And yet they were being run out of the stadium. Robbie Keane, so good for the last few months, never had much chance to be a factor; the Galaxy just never got enough possession. Even steady center back Omar Gonzales was having a bad match.

But then …

Sounders right back Adam Johansson had his arms out, away from his body as Keane tried a tricky little chipped cross on one of the few Galaxy incursions. Referee Mark Geiger had a good look as the ball hit first Johansson’s left hand and then skimmed his right.

Sounders fans may not agree, but it was the correct call.

To that point, the Sounders were rolling downhill, on a rave green rampage, powered by on the momentum of the playoff record crowd of 44,575. Seattle had a 2-0 lead in the match, still trailing by one on aggregate but surely feeling that the equalizer was in them.

But what a buzz kill the PK was. Keane converted and you never really got the impression Seattle had enough left to overcome the two-goal margin that had just been re-created.

Steve Zakuani had a big impact on things:

Sounders’ manager Sigi Schmid is never afraid of playing the hunch, gambling and trying something new, never mind the big circumstance. Sometimes things work out, sometimes not. Clearly, going with Steve Zakuani on a slick field, on a big occasion, was something of a gambler’s hunch. But this one paid off.

The Sounders went down Zakuani’s left side time and again in the first 45. He zipped by L.A. right back Sean Franklin early and that one seemed to power up the confidence. Fredy Montero, recognizing where Seattle was hurting the visitors, drifted left to create better connections.

It all had the added benefit of more or less shutting down L.A. right-sided attack; not only was right back Franklin utterly uninterested in roaming forward, right midfielder Christian Wilhemsson expended lots of energy in retreat, looking to give Franklin a defensive hand.

The Fredy Montero mystery deepens:

Did we just see the last of Fredy Montero’s turbulent four-year run at CenturyLink?

And wasn’t this the perfect microcosm of his up-and-down time in Seattle?

Montero looked like he could win it all by himself in the first 45 minutes, alive with ideas and energy, making those killer connections with Eddie Johnson and Zakuani, even winning aerial challenges with the towering Gonzalez.

And then came the second half, when Montero looked more like the broken and beaten shell we saw last week, when the Colombian striker was shockingly ineffective in Los Angeles.

So here’s the bottom line on Montero in the playoffs across four years: 10 games (829 minutes to be precise) and zero goals. And in the critical moments, season on the line, Montero was on the bench. Schmid removed Montero – the man who has absolutely carried Seattle’s offense over stretches since 2009 – after 73 minutes.

That cannot speak well of Montero’s chances of staying around.

Packaged for take-away:

  • Good as Alonso was over 90 minutes, he made himself look bad after the final whistle, berating Geiger and earning a second yellow card. He will miss Seattle’s first match next year, at least.
  • Johnson struck in the 11th minute. He was ruled offside, although replays showed otherwise.
  • Goalkeeper Josh Saunders may have been the one and only Galaxy man to have a match worth remembering.

ProSoccerTalk will keep up the discussion of the chase for MLS Cup through the Dec. 1 final.

  1. footballer4ever - Nov 18, 2012 at 11:51 PM

    I am saddened SSFC did not make the final. SSFC should avoid making that handball a deciding factor. The thruth of the matter is they dug a hole for themselves in the first leg and they failed to score at least 3 goals. That’s the end of any “controversy”.

  2. ndnut - Nov 18, 2012 at 11:54 PM

    Is that it for “Packaged For Takeaway?” you said that the handball skimmed his right but I couldn’t see it, as it appears that the ball takes no deflection and keeps going out. If the left arm is mentioned, I have seen that small of a violation ignored when it goes for a corner anyways, so I find that to be a borderline judgement call where I would give a player the benefit of the doubt, especially at home. Still, going down 3-0 is what really killed SSFC, but nobody wants to remember that after a great performance that looked like a Rave Green win was possible.

    P.S. Can you explain what happened at the end with EJ, Ozzie, and Geiger? Does the red card carry over? (Gorilla FC summed it up beat on Tweeter: “What comes after red?”)

  3. eorlin1964 - Nov 19, 2012 at 12:50 AM

    The handball call was technically right, but worng: Keane had no one open and was trying to earn a PK – it was a clear ball to hand: Johansson’s hand was away form his body, but parallel to it (meaning even if his arm was tucked against his body the ball would have hit it). Geiger bought into Robbie Keane’s act.

    Disappointing that you chose to spend a lot of words in the main article on what is at any rate a judgment call, while relegating a clear botched call that cost Seattle a goal to a footnote. What is the game like if it is 3-3 on aggregate after 60 minutes?

    • Dan Haug - Nov 20, 2012 at 4:24 PM

      You are factually incorrect on at least one point. Marcelo Sarvas was wide open on the far post about ten yards in front of the goal. Go watch the full replay.

  4. term3186 - Nov 19, 2012 at 2:03 AM

    It was a good call. What in the world was Johannsen thinking?! His arms were moving like freaking tilt-a-whirls the entire time he was shadowing Keane inside the penalty area. He was practically begging for a penalty to be called. Credit to Geiger for not being afraid to call it.

  5. dfstell - Nov 19, 2012 at 5:50 AM

    Geez… was a handball and a PK. It would help Seattle supporters to look in the mirror sometimes. I admire their passion, but in my visiting of all the relevant soccer websites, I don’t think I’ve seen a single “the better team won” comment anywhere. It’s all complaints over the handball, Johnson’s non-goal and how the playoff format didn’t reward them enough for their better regular season record.

    They sound like Mexican National Team officials anytime we beat them: the field was crappy, we had hurt players, the referee was bad, the ball didn’t have enough air in it……ANYTHING but “we lost and congrat to the winners”.

  6. paladinvt - Nov 19, 2012 at 7:23 AM

    It seemed pretty obvious at the time the defender had his arms out from his side trying to make himself bigger and was depending on the “ball to hand” argument to keep from getting the handball called against him. “Making yourself big” is a deliberate act, and when the ball hits your hand while doing that, you have deliberately handled the ball. In the box, that’s a PK.

  7. dws110 - Nov 19, 2012 at 12:50 PM

    I think you’re completely wrong about both Zakuani and Montero. I’m a huge Zakuani fan, and it’s incredibly inspiring to see him back on the field already, but the guy has so much rust to shake off from not playing that he’s a liability right now. I stopped counting his turnovers and misplayed passes last night. I hope he tears up MLS next year after having a full preseason to sharpen himself mentally, but he was the wrong choice to start last night against LA. Rosales should have had the start over Zakuani.

    Sigi pulling Montero early really should be just cause and grounds for firing Sigi in the tunnel immediately after the match. I really don’t understand the Montero hate this morning, I thought he had a great match. For every ball Zakuani turned over, Montero was back fighting to recover. He picked several pockets right inside the circle.

    Yes, it was a handball all day long. This wasn’t the first (or the 100th) time Johansson’s arms have gone all loco in the box. It’s sort of a thing with him; if he gets spun, he gets a little loose when he recovers. $10 says Keane saw that on film and figured he could use it.

    • tylerbetts - Nov 19, 2012 at 1:44 PM

      If you’re that eager to get rid of Sigi, we’ll gladly take him back in Columbus. For all his faults, he’s one of the best MLS coaches. Ever.

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