BY ADAM SERRANO
The World Cup stars were back for the Los Angeles Galaxy and they showed on Sunday that they haven't missed a beat.
The Galaxy flattened the Seattle Sounders in a comprehensive 3-1 victory in front of a capacity crowd at the Home Depot Center on Independence Day. Fans that came for the fireworks after the game were treated to some on the field as Edson Buddle scored in his game back and Brazilian midfielder Juninho scored off a brilliant shot from nearly 40 yards. The Sounders would add a pair of goals late in the match, one for themselves by Steve Zakuani and an own goal in what was big night for Los Angeles.
"There was a lot of energy and emotion in the beginning of the game with the big crowd and we put a lot of energy in the first half and got tired, but I'm really happy to be back and its nice to be on this team again," said Donovan. "We seem a little bit more mature since I left and I think we're starting to pass and move better and the guys in the midfield look great and we're getting more confident as the season goes on."
Fresh off his stellar performance in the World Cup, Donovan went the full 90 minutes in the victory. The midfielder was able to earn an assist, but he appeared sluggish throughout the night suffering from fatigue after an arduous several weeks. Following the match, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena admitted that Donovan may receive rest over the coming week and it is doubtful that the midfielder will travel with the team on their roadtrip this week.
While the story may have been the return of Buddle and Donovan, the game was a coming out party for the Brazilian midfielder Juninho. Steadily gaining in confidence as the season wears on, the midfielder was all over the field beating the Sounders defense to balls and helping to create scoring opportunities for Los Angeles. He showed his confidence when he fired in a curving long range shot from beyond 30 yards easily beat a diving Kasey Keller in what may be a goal of the year candidate. Following the match, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena was vocal in his belief that the Brazilian has matured greatly since the start of the season.
"We've seen this over the last month, he's really gotten his confidence up and he's caught up to the speed of the game in MLS," said Arena. "With all players there is a transition period and he's done real well this entire year and he's beginning to emerge, I was very happy with his goal and we see goals like that all the time in training."
For the Sounders, the club has now given up nine goals in their three straight losses and will be mired in seventh place in the Western Conference just one spot above last place Chivas USA. Seattle came out of the match flat and was immediately overwhelmed by the constant pressure of the Galaxy. It was not until late in the second half when the Sounders would finally make an impression on the match.
The Sounders were given a lifeline with the club down 2-0 when Steve Zakuani off a pass by Fredy Montero was able to beat Gregg Berhalter and pull one back. With Seattle finally showing signs of life, a match that had been a poor one would go from bad to worse in the 78th Minute. As Galaxy sub Alan Gordon delivered a slow cross from the right side that careened off of James Riley as he tries to clear the ball with a sliding effort.
"The story of the night for us was that we didn't get enough pressure on them defensively early enough," said head coach Sigi Schmid. "You got to play with energy and I think we got over run as they were very active and moving around in midfield, we never got tight enough to anyone and if you give a good player time and space then he'll show you how good he is and we didn't give them anything to deal with at times."
The Galaxy and the Sounders will face off for a second time in four days on Wednesday in the US Open Cup Quarterfinals. Los Angeles will then travel back east to take on the struggling New England Revolution. Following their Open Cup tie, the Sounders will host FC Dallas as they look to break their three game losing streak.