Skip to content

Hard way becoming the only way for finals-bound Galaxy

Nov 19, 2012, 5:32 AM EDT

x200 Getty Images

SEATTLE – Of course, Los Angeles was going to make it tough on themselves. We should have seen it coming.

Even after taking a 3-0 lead in the first leg of their Western Conference final against the Seattle Sounders, the defending Major League Soccer champions were destined to revert to their drama-inducing selves, a quality that saw the team eliminated from CONCACAF Champions League by Toronto FC, plummet to the bottom of the West to start the season, fall behind against Vancouver in the playoffs’ knockout round, and lose at home to San Jose before eventually eliminating the Supporters’ Shield winners.

Those were the tea leaves that foretold LA’s Sunday struggles. The Galaxy were second-best all night, giving back two goals before a late Robbie Keane penalty kick secured the Galaxy’s third finals birth in four seasons. With a 4-2 (aggregate) win over Seattle, LA earned the chance to become the first team in five years to retain the league title.

“We know we didn’t play particularly well,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said. “We knew it’d be challenging. The objective was to advance to the MLS Cup final. That was accomplished.”

“Seattle played quite well. No question about that. Having said all that, we won this competition 4-2 and deserve to move forward.”

It’s a bottom line that belies the difficulty of the accomplishment. During Sunday’s first 20 minutes, Seattle’s three lead attackers – Johnson, Fredy Montero, and a surprisingly dominant Steve Zakuani – tore apart a Galaxy defense that was being beaten by every trick Seattle tried: combination play and one-on-one attacks; balls over the top and passes played through the line; considered build-up or quick, direct strikes.

“It’s probably been a while since a team came out and put that much pressure on us,” Galaxy right back Sean Franklin conceded, the former all-star forced to bear the brunt of a resurgent performance from Zakuani, who for the first time since suffering a broken leg in April 2011 showed signs of his former explosive self.

Franklin wasn’t the only Galaxy player to struggle early. Omar Gonzalez couldn’t contain Johnson. Rookie Tommy Meyer was out of sync with his partner. Perhaps most worrisome, LA couldn’t hold the ball, the team unable to adjust to a CenturyLink Stadium surface made slick by the downpour that fell during the match’s first half hour. On those occasions the defense was able to withstand Seattle’s pressure, the Galaxy would immediately give the ball back.

“We didn’t pass well tonight,” Arena said when asked about LA’s poor start. “The conditions certainly helped. It was a little bit difficult passing the ball. You could see our players [were] not fully confident on the surface.”

“If you watch the first 20 minutes, it looked as if they were playing on ice and they were playing on natural (grass),” according to David Beckham. “It was very frantic. They were passing the ball and keeping the ball, and we weren’t.”

Faced with problems in defense and midfield, LA did was they’ve done all season, resorting to the most-basic of solutions: Just play better. No tactical adjustments were needed. Bruce Arena didn’t need new personnel. His players just needed to execute.

“We understood we needed to pass the ball a little bit more,” Beckham said. “The game started to slow down … As soon as we put some passes together, we went through them and created chances.”

Still, the Galaxy were never their normal selves. At no point did they show the form that’d made them the league’s best team over the season’s second half. They team that took apart San Jose and Seattle in consecutive matches? They never showed up on Sunday, though to say that was all Los Angeles’s fault would be short-changing Seattle.

“They pressured us for every ball, played into feet,” Arena said of Seattle’s performance. “They positioned themselves better and were much more aggressive for second balls.

“Basically, on the night, they out-worked us.”

Seattle’s pressure left Los Angeles with no shots on frame through the first 45 minutes, and although the visitors had gained a greater foothold on the match by halftime, the Glaaxy still conceded 12 minutes after intermission, Zach Scott’s header off a Christian Tiffert corner pulling Seattle within one.

Then, as predictably as they allowed drama to undermine their otherwise smooth road to the final, Los Angeles regained their focused. Eleven minutes after Scott pulled Seattle within one, Keane created a penalty kick, eventually restoring a two-goal lead. Though Seattle had one good opportunity late, the Galaxy defense came together, aggressive play from goalkeeper Josh Saunders complementing a renewed organization from the back line.

“I thought Tommy and Omar did a good job of winning a few more balls, and we were picking up the second ones as well,” galaxy defender Todd Dunivant said, describing the defense’s improvement throughout the game. “We were able to break out a little bit and not just constantly be back and be pinned in with them firing from all sides. I think that was the biggest difference. We were winning the first ball and then cleaning up the second.”

Better passing, organized defending, winning the second balls. It was the formula Los Angeles used to play out the final minutes of a performance which became a metaphor for their season. It was unduly dramatic and failed to live up to the best team ever billing the champs accrued in the offseason. But it got the job done.

“Escape maybe is the right word, I don’t know,” Dunivant said. “We’re going through. To us, that’s the most important thing.

“If we’d won 3-0, we’d still be going through. We made it difficult on our fans and everyone on the sidelines, but we still got it done.”

If that was an implicit apology from the Galaxy left back, it wasn’t one endorsed by Bruce Arena.

“I don’t feel we escaped anything,” Arena said, defiantly. “We won 4-2 on aggregate. What’s there to escape from?”

“It’s been a really challenging season, and it’s taken a lot of character and talent to get where we are today,” Arena explained.

“After 14 games, we basically conceded the Supporters’ Shield. The objective then was to get into the playoffs. We went on a run that was fabulous. Last 17 games of the season we had 34 points. Thank God [the media wasn’t] smart enough to figure that out so we could kind of do it quietly and get ourselves going again.

“We’re back in the final, and hopefully we can have an improved performance from tonight.”

Latest Posts
  1. WATCH LIVE: Japan and England duel for World Cup final date with the USWNT

    Jul 1, 2015, 6:45 PM EDT

    AUGSBURG, GERMANY - JULY 05: Sophie Bradley of England is challenged by Azusa Iwashimizu of Japan during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2011 group B match between England and Japan at the FIFA World Cup stadiumon July 5, 2011 in Augsburg, Germany.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images) Getty Images

    England’s fairytale run to its first Women’s World Cup semifinal meets the reigning champions in Edmonton on Wednesday

  2. Finally with New York City FC, Lampard’s teammates react after first training session

    Jul 1, 2015, 5:50 PM EDT

    instagram.com/davidvilla instagram.com/davidvilla

    Shay Facey knows Lampard from his time at Manchester City, and wasn’t bashful in praising the situation.

  3. Daley Blind’s father Danny tabbed as Guus Hiddink’s Netherlands successor

    Jul 1, 2015, 5:10 PM EDT

    Daley Blind of Holland, assistant trainer Danny Blind of Holland during the International friendly match between Netherlands and Spain on March 31, 2015 at the Amsterdam Arena in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images) Getty Images

    The legendary Ajax defender will be stepping up from the assistant’s chair to try and rescue Holland’s Euro 2016 fate.

  4. Inter Milan adds Miranda as rebuild continues at San Siro

    Jul 1, 2015, 4:26 PM EDT

    MADRID, SPAIN - MARCH 17: Joao Miranda (L) of Atletico de Madrid wins the header before Stefan Kiessling (R) of Bayer 04 Leverkusen during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Bayer 04 Leverkusen at Vicente Calderon Stadium on March 17, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images) Getty Images

    He’s the latest addition for Roberto Mancini at the San Siro, along with Monaco midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia and Granada defender Jeison Murillo.

  5. Stars of CONCACAF: Ranking the top 10 players at the 2015 Gold Cup

    Jul 1, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    As we gear up for a massive Gold Cup tournament, here’s a look at the superstars who will be on show in the United States of America.

  6. Done Deals: Swansea sign Eder, Douglas to Bayern, Martinez to Atletico and more

    Jul 1, 2015, 2:20 PM EDT

    FC Bayern Muenchen - Training Session Getty Images

    With the summer transfer window officially open, plenty of deals have started to trickle through. Here’s a roundup of the latest.

  7. VIDEO: Abby Wambach wants Japan in World Cup final for “fairytale ending”

    Jul 1, 2015, 1:50 PM EDT

    USA v Germany: Semi Final - FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 USA v Germany: Semi Final - FIFA Women's World Cup 2015

    USWNT legend Wambach joins the Dan Patrick show to preview the Women’s World Cup final.

  8. World Cup semifinal preview: Defending champs Japan take on England

    Jul 1, 2015, 1:15 PM EDT

    England v Canada Quarter Final - FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Getty Images

    Can the Three Lionesses cause another upset to set up a clash with the USA in the final?

  9. Radamel Falcao’s family claim he has sealed transfer to Chelsea

    Jul 1, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT

    Falcao AP

    Colombian forward is inching towards a move to Stamford Bridge.

  10. Julie Johnston hails USWNT’s resilience, togetherness after reaching World Cup final

    Jul 1, 2015, 11:50 AM EDT

    FBL-WC-2015-WOMEN-MATCH49-USA-GER FBL-WC-2015-WOMEN-MATCH49-USA-GER

    After giving away a PK in a pivotal moment of the USWNT’s World Cup semifinal, Johnston thanked her teammates for their support.

  11. VIDEO: Watch Lionel Messi embarrass Paraguay defenders to lead Argentina rout

    Jul 1, 2015, 11:19 AM EDT

    The little magician grabbed three assists and carved open Paraguay’s defense time and time again. Sublime.

  12. PHOTOS: Rayo Vallecano unveil jersey aimed to fight homophobia, pay tribute to “unsung heroes”

    Jul 1, 2015, 10:50 AM EDT

    Source: @RVMOficial Source: @RVMOficial

    Spanish club reveal snazzy new jerseys with plenty of meaning behind them. Check out the rainbow inspired get-up, here.

  13. “Angel Di Maria has most talent at Manchester United,” says teammate. Agree?

    Jul 1, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT

    Manchester United v Aston Villa - Premier League Getty Images

    Despite Di Maria’s stop-start debut campaign at Old Trafford, the Argentine international still has the backing of his teammates.

  14. VIDEO: Breaking down the done deals and transfer gossip in PST Extra

    Jul 1, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT

    PST Extra - July 1

    Joe Prince-Wright dissects the big deals of the summer so far and takes a look at the latest transfer gossip doing the rounds.

  15. Liverpool complete $20 million signing of Nathaniel Clyne from Southampton

    Jul 1, 2015, 7:10 AM EDT

    Clyne Getty Images

    England international right back Clyne has signed a long-term deal at Anfield.

  16. Amid all the noise, United States coach Jill Ellis got the tactics right on Tuesday

    Jul 1, 2015, 12:12 AM EDT

    150630 Ellis Getty Images

    Jill Ellis takes a lot of criticism, but she got it right again on Tuesday, moves that got the U.S. into the World Cup final.

  17. Dos Santos rumors show us what the “core player” can mean to growing MLS

    Jun 30, 2015, 11:50 PM EDT

    Felipe Baloy, Giovani Dos Santos AP

    It’ll be an interesting story to follow as it unfolds across American soccer’s top flight.

  18. Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup roundup: Union, Orlando, Chicago move on as Charlotte bounced

    Jun 30, 2015, 11:20 PM EDT

    Orlando City's Kaka moves the ball against the Columbus Crew at the Orlando Citrus Bowl on Saturday, June 30, 2015, in Orlando, Fla. City won, 2-0, in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images) Getty Images

    For 32 glorious minutes, we thought there was a good chance we’d see a third-tier side in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup’s quarterfinals.

  19. Three things learned: United States advances over Germany in epic Women’s World Cup semifinal

    Jun 30, 2015, 10:47 PM EDT

    USA v Germany: Semi-Final - FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Getty Images

    The United States played its best soccer in two years with a victory over Germany in an epic win over Germany.

Featured video

PST Extra: Done deals & transfer gossip