BY KAYLA KNAPP
CARSON, CALIF—Mike Magee has a knack for scoring clutch goals for the Los Angeles Galaxy, and he did just that on Sunday night at the Home Depot Center, helping lift the home side over the visiting Seattle Sounders 1-0 with an 83rd minute goal.
The two Western Conference giants were locked in what seemed to be an unbreakable deadlock until the late goal from the Galaxy substitute.
“I wouldn’t call it too clutch,” Magee said of his game-winning goal after the match. “I think if I do that again on Thursday, I’ll be a lot more happy. But we’ll take it. We always want to win, especially against a team that we’re hoping to see in a couple of weeks.”
The loss dropped the Sounders to third place in the Western Conference, with the Galaxy in fourth.
“When you get slapped a little bit toward the end of the season, it’s maybe a good thing because it reminds you of how that feels,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said after the match.
Not only did the Sounders lose the match on Sunday, they could enter the playoffs without red-hot striker Eddie Johnson, who was taken out of the match in the final minute of the first half with an injury. He will undergo an MRI on Monday.
On the other hand, the night ended well for Los Angeles, as they picked up a solid win and some confidence heading into their first round knockout game playing.
“I think that this is a really good week for our team,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said after the match. “With the win in El Salvador and the win tonight, it’s involved 20-some odd players, I think as we enter the playoffs, if we have any aspirations of defending our MLS Cup title, I think that we’re going to need these players. We know that Vancouver is going to be real difficult on Thursday and if we’re fortunate to get past them, it’s a quick turnaround and we’ll have to use other players.”
They played with what is arguably their strongest possible lineup at the moment, with the only exception being center back A.J. DeLaGarza, who is still recovering from a knee injury. Arena said after Sunday’s win that it is “highly unlikely” DeLaGarza will play against the Whitecaps on Thursday.
“I think the thought process behind Bruce putting out a real lineup, as opposed to resting a bunch of guys, was we wanted to get some rhythm and some continuity heading into the playoffs,” Landon Donovan said after the match. “We certainly weren’t perfect, we were maybe a little lucky at times and Josh made some goods saves, but I thought we played pretty well and we feel good now going into the playoffs.”
Other positives on the night for the Galaxy were that Donovan played a full 90 minutes, and David Beckham played 62 minutes. Both players have been recovering from some nagging injuries, so strong performances ahead of the playoffs are important for Los Angeles.
“Our goal was to get [Beckham] 45, and to get Landon 60, and [Beckham] went 60 and Landon went 90, so that’s massive,” Magee said. “Without those guys, we’re taking a huge hit, and to get them some minutes, kind of get their legs underneath them before the playoffs is huge.”
Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders had a rough start when he handled the ball just outside the box in the 5th minute, and was shown yellow card, but after that he settled down and put together an impressive performance.
“Josh was ridiculous tonight,” Magee said of Saunders. “If it weren’t for him, I think we’re not winning tonight’s game. That’s how we need Josh, and that’s the Josh we know. That’s what we expect out of him, even though he’s making saves out of his ass.”
Saunders certainly kept the game close, and Seattle was unable to convert on any of their opportunities throughout the match – something they will need to change if they want to make a deep run in the playoffs.
“Games like that, it’s a little bit of, are you able to finish your chances when you get them, and can you keep them from finishing their chances when they dominate the game,” Schmid said after the loss. “But it’s something that has to serve for us as motivation as we go into this next series of games.”
The Galaxy will face the Vancouver Whitecaps on Thursday in their first round knock out match, while Seattle faces Real Salt Lake on November 8th.
“There’s no easy games, we know that,” Keane said after the win. “We were playing against a good team that we lost twice to this season, so it was important to get that monkey off our back. Hopefully we’ll see them in the [conference final] and it’ll be the same result.”