Photo by Jane Gershovich/Soccer by Ives
By JASON MITCHELL
SEATTLE – Just call him the Sounder slayer. Robbie Keane came into Sunday night’s match with six goals in his last seven games against the Seattle Sounders.
Make that seven goals in his last eight games.
With his team trailing 1-0 in the 78th minute in front of 66,216 at CenturyLink Field, Keane slapped a volley off the FieldTurf and past a helpless Michael Gspurning for an equalizer that held up for a 1-1 draw.
“It’s always dangerous,” said Keane, “when a team goes 1-0 up, and when you’re playing against the Galaxy, we know we’re quite capable of scoring at any time and that was the case.”
Seattle earned itself a corner in the waning moments of stoppage time, but shots by Djimi Traore and Andy Rose found only Galaxy defenders.
Coming in the last match of the 2013 MLS regular season, the goal cemented the Galaxy as the third seed in the Western Conference and allowed it to bypass the midweek play-in round.
The Galaxy (15-11-8, 53 points) will play Real Salt Lake in the conference semifinals next weekend, while the Sounders (15-12-7, 52 points) host the Colorado Rapids in Wednesday’s wild card match.
The goal will perhaps partially mute the level of controversy surrounding a disallowed first-half Galaxy equalizer.
On a 41st minute corner kick, Omar Gonzalez slipped along the far side of Seattle’s defense and found himself unmarked near the back post. While replays showed his header easily crossed the goal line, the assistant referee ruled Osvaldo Alonso cleared the shot in time.
“I saw it very clearly,” said Landon Donovan. “I saw it as clearly as the linesman so for me it was a no-brainer. I was looking right across waiting for him to put his flag up and signal goal but for whatever reason he didn’t.”
“Maybe luck is turning for us a little bit,” said Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid.
Clint Dempsey opened the scoring with his first goal as a Sounder in the 30th minute, finding open space at the far post and smartly deflecting a Lamar Neagle cross back into the goal.
“It’s always good to score,” said Dempsey. “You don’t want to have a goose egg for the season. It is good to get on the score sheet and hopefully they will start coming a little easier now.”
“It was good to see Clint score,” added Schmid. “I think that was important for him. It takes a lot of pressure off of him.”
The Galaxy, two-time defending MLS Cup champions heading to the playoffs for the fifth straight season, close the season on a 2-0-2 run that saw it shut out three straight opponents before giving up Dempsey’s goal.
“We’ve had a good run since August,” Arena said. “We’ve done a good job and we’ll hopefully be healthy by the weekend when we play. We’ll be in a good position to be competitive and hopefully win the first series.”
The Sounders, on the other hand, enter the playoffs winless in their last seven matches. There are, however, some reasons for optimism.
Not only did Dempsey score his first goal since returning to MLS, the Sounders for much of the first half looked more like themselves than they have in weeks, playing with urgency and understanding.
“We can take some bright spots from it,” said Lamar Neagle. “I think definitely in the first half we had some chemistry we’ve been wanting for a few games now, so that’s a positive.”
And Michael Gpsurning, benched for two matches after the Sounders gave up nine goals over two games, looked solid in his return to the starting lineup.
“He kept things close,” said Schmid. “There were a couple of rebounds he gave up that he kept close and he did well with the goal. I don’t think there was much he could do.”
Here are the match highlights: