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Galaxy withstand Sounders rally to clinch MLS Cup berth


SEATTLE, Wash. – The Los Angeles Galaxy might have lost the battle, but they won the war that is an aggregate goal series. Dropping 2-1 to the swarming Seattle Sounders on a rainy Sunday night, the Galaxy nonetheless prevailed 4-2 on aggregate in this Western Conference final and advanced to the MLS Cup.

The defending champion Galaxy will host the Houston Dynamo on Saturday, Dec. 1, at the Home Depot Center. It will be L.A.’s third trip to the league final in four years and a rematch of last year’s MLS Cup.

“Obviously the conditions were difficult,” said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena, “with the surface and the rain. And Seattle played quite well, no question about that. Having said all that, we won this competition 4-2 and deserve to move forward.”

Seattle dominated throughout the match, but Robbie Keane scored the biggest goal of the night, converting a 67th minute penalty kick that put the Galaxy up 4-2 on aggregate with just over 20 minutes to play.

Referee Mark Geiger, a fan target throughout the night, called the controversial penalty for a handball on Seattle defender Adam Johansson. Calling the penalty “harsh,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid argued that a more clear-cut handball against Sean Franklin went uncalled in the first leg.

“That’s the way it seems to have gone for us a little bit this season,” Schmid lamented.

Arena, not surprisingly, was not about to concede the penalty was a difference-maker.

“I didn’t see it, so I couldn’t tell you,” said Arena when asked whether the play merited a penalty. “But even if we don’t get the penalty we still advance 3-2.”

Goalkeeper Michael Gspurning guessed wrong on the ensuing penalty kick, and Keane buried a shot into the left side of the net.

The goal seemed to deflate both the Sounders and the 44,575 in attendance at CenturyLink Field, raucous after a promising start for the home team.

In just the 12th minute, Eddie Johnson got on the end of a lobbed ball from defender Zach Scott and beat Omar Gonzalez to bury a shot past Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders.

“We knew that in order to give ourselves a chance we were going to have to have a good start to the game,” Johnson said.

Just minutes earlier an apparent Johnson goal was called back for offside, although replays seemed to show the striker at least flush with the Galaxy back line.

“I thought we had a goal early from Eddie Johnson,” said Schmid. “I haven’t seen the replay so I don’t know if it was on[side] or offside. Some people have said that it was on. That would have helped us.”

Johnson, buzzing around throughout the night, blew an early opportunity when he sent a fifth-minute shot well over the crossbar. At the time Seattle seemed destined to score plenty against an L.A. side swooning early without midfielders Landon Donovan and Juninho, but the Galaxy showed resolve in withstanding a withering Seattle attack.

Zach Scott provided the only other goal Seattle could muster, pounding in a beautiful diving header off a Christian Tiffert corner kick in the 58th minute to put Seattle up 2-0 and just a goal away from tying the series.

“We knew we were going to get a goal on a set piece,” said Scott, “and we were fortunate there.”

For the next 10 minutes the series seemed in real doubt for the Galaxy. Until, as usual, Robbie Keane provided a much-needed goal.

“Robbie worked hard,” Arena said of his Irish forward. “We had to have guys do things that they’re not accustomed to, necessarily, and Robbie had to chase the ball a lot tonight, and did what we expect a player of his quality to do in a game like this and in these kind of conditions.”

It was the fifth goal of the playoffs for Keane,  who’s been scorching since returning from summer international duty.

The aggregate victory completes a stunning turnaround for a Galaxy team that stumbled out of the gate with a championship hangover and spent much of the season well below the playoff seeds.

“I think early on it was a running joke,” said Saunders about the possibility of the defending champions not making the playoffs. “But we all knew we were going to pull through, and we did pull through.”

Yes they did, as the Galaxy have now qualified for their league-record eighth MLS Cup. A victory would give L.A. its fourth title, tied with D.C. United for most in league history.

For the Sounders, the loss marks the second season in a row the team has struggled to recover from 3-0 loss in the first leg of a playoff series. Real Salt Lake walloped Seattle 3-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium last year before falling 2-0 in the second match.

Asked what he talked to his players about after the loss, Schmid said, “The general message was we have to eliminate those 3-0 losses in the playoffs, because we’re showing we can win games in the playoffs.”

At least Seattle won’t have a long off-season to ponder another aborted title run. A CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals match against the Mexican side Tigres is scheduled for mid-March.

Los Angeles, on the other hand, has two weeks to get rested and healthy for the Houston Dynamo.



  1. While we’re arguing the referee’s proficiency, he also called two pretty obvious seattle corners as galaxy goal kicks. Alonzo’s was goal bound, but the keeper had a great save and pushed it around the post. He was surprised to be taking a goal kick afterwards.

    I’m not blaming the ref for the series result, because seattle came out so flat in LA. I blame Burch for getting uselessly suspended, which lead to a couple of goals down the left in the first game.

  2. three takeaways:

    1) we have 2 MLS dynasties in Galaxy and Houston. No matter their league records, they find a way to win.

    2) Donovan really is that good. He changes the game completely. More specifically, Donovan’s chemistry with Beckham – Robbie – Juninho spreads out the defense enough that they can’t double up on any one guy; more often than not this freed Keane to do his damage v. 1 guy as opposed to taking on 2.

    3) Sigi needs to go – he’s a whiner. Don’t blame refs for a loss, especially when there were 2 games. its a moot point.

  3. don’t forget the non-call on Monteros flagrant DIVE over omar gonzalez.

    seattle crybabies , you’re not going to get every single call for or against you. it goes both ways. theres no way a linesman can really tell if johnson is off or not with all those bodies in the way. just play the game, and dont get crushed 0-3 first game then cry about calls.

    johnson and montero disappeared after the first half.

    • But Seattle should have been given the game. Keane shouldn’t have scored twice last week, and after he did, someone should have knocked him on his ass, outside the box of course.

      A couple of years ago I watched Beckham track back and annihilate a guy who had just schooled him. It was a way from the play so no one saw it, and it was a clean above the waist hit. Would have made John Madden proud. They have a knife; you use a bigger knife.

      Grow up, Seattle fans, and grow a pair. Century Link is the best soccer atmosphere short of a world cup game I’ve ever experienced, but learn how to f-ing lose.

  4. We see that EJ was onside on his first goal but if that stands I don’t think he scores right after that because you would not have had that sequence of events. He showed he is a beast by coming right back and righting the wrong.

    I think every ref makes that handball call. It’s tough luck but that’s the way it is called when your hands are nowhere near your body. Why is it that Sounders fans seem to think every ref has a history with Seattle. That takes me to my last point which is how classless on the part of Alonso, EJ & Parke after the game. Then the fans start throwing crap. It screams sore losers. It seems to stem from this weird sense of entitlement that ultimately is Seattle’s undoing every year.

    The playoffs worked again and gave us the two best teams. Not just the two best teams now and not just the two best teams over the course of the season but clearly based on their history of cup finals, the two best and most professional franchises in the league.

  5. There really is no disputing the hand ball call. The MLS “Kick Off” called it a “disputed PK call,” but how is anyone going to dispute Johansson’s flailing arms? The ball his BOTH hands.

    EJ’s called-off first goal was a legitimate blown call by the linesman, but that was not Geiger’s fault. Terrible, terrible call.

  6. Geiger has some past history with the Sounders, being the man in the middle who blew several calls earlier in the year when the Sounders lost to Montreal 4-1. Said of Geiger after that game: “I’m not going to bash the ref, but he’s not a fan of Seattle, it seems like,” said defender Jeff Parke. “Anytime we have him, he’s doing some weird things out there.”

    • What, exactly, is everyone’s beef with Geiger’s performance last night? He was far from perfect, but the two issues I keep seeing (EJ’s called off goal and Keane’s PK) were really not Geiger’s fault. Linesman blew the offside and Johansson had his hands all over the ball in the penalty area – both hands.

      • I didn’t like the call, you see this called handball half the time and no call half the time. The problem in this instance is that Keane intentionally and deliberately chipped the ball at the defenders hands so he could have a shot at the call, no call. He’s done it before and I know you have seen him do it. It’s not against the laws to try but it’s crappy to watch.

        I say Geiger/ MLS Refs. Should have been aware of this tactic and know how to react.

      • I don’t think anyone can be sure Keane intentionally chipped the ball at Johansson’s hands – if so, credit for accuracy. More to the point, it was amateur hour in the box on that play. If Johansson kept his arms down like defenders are wont to do in the 18 yard box, Keane would not have been gifted the opportunity to draw the PK. This “blame the ref” stuff for making a legit call stinks of sore losing.

  7. This is why playoffs don’t work.

    MLS, please do what THE REST OF THE WORLD DOES with their soccer leagues: Best Record = League Champion. Promote and relegate (causing teams like Chivas and TFC to either right the ship or go away). If you want, make the playoff a separate trophy, even seed a bottom team to give them an opportunity to stay up if you create a Cinderella story.

    FWIW I feel this way about every american sport. What is the point of a season if a perfect record essentially amounts to a pat on the back and being screwed in next year’s draft?

    • to me, the MLS Cup is it’s own championship tournament. Like Arena said, San Jose won a Championship already this year, the Supporter’s Shield, and the MLS Cup is it’s own championship tournament too.

      • Exxxxaaaaaaactly. BB. And I think they are closer to getting the playoff tourney right. Tweak the schedule a bit and I think they are about there.

        I admit to being dead set against a playoff in the beginning, but I am warming up to it. The Shield does need to be celebrated a bit more by fans and the league.

        I’d bet the trend world wide is and will be to see more playoffs. European leagues have considered it, Mexico is doing it with success… it is exciting and as said before- the bottom line is, it brings in a ton of cash.

  8. Class act indeed. Loved that they didn’t throw it in Seattle’s face by over celebrating. They quickly got off the field once they hot their trophy.

  9. I was at the game. Just watched the handball PK on video. Just WOW at Robbie Keane’s Wiley leprechaun ass. He clearly lifts that intentionally onto Johanson’s arm. Crazy.

    Not classy by Alonso and Johnson after the final whistle. That incited the crowd in part to rain down bottles at the officials walking off. Really not cool.

    Schmid’s brazen comments earlier this year against Salazar really can’t help Seattle with the community of referees. Combined with at times angry crowds in tgd CLink, Seattle really needs to work on referee relations, or in other words sportsmanship.

    Congrats to LA – living up to the hype by being a pure quality soccer team.

    • I will grant you that Seattle needs to deal with bad calls more gracefully, and they have been at times chippy to the point of dirty, so perhaps Karma came and got em…

      But I think you’d be hard pressed to not find a fan community that is able to put 40k+ in seats for a playoff game that isn’t going to have a faction that gets too passionate when they are positively robbed by an easily duped referee.

      I’m not blaming the ref for the loss, but I am blamiung him for several bad calls. It doesn’t change the fact that is Freddy Montero actually earned his keep during the playoffs and scored a goal here and there then Seattle’s not at the mercy of a bad call, so there are many ways to look at it.

      LA is a quality team, but they were not last night. Shame they had to win it that way.

  10. As a G’s fan, I am glad to see them advance. They have been the best team in the league since August. LA won the first half of the tie and Seattle the second. LA’s first 90 minute victory was more comprehensive, requiring no help from the referee. I’m not anxious to see any team that tortures the players with plastic grass win anything until they put in a real soccer pitch. Makes for ugly soccer and shortens the career of players.

    There is already a tournament (USOC) so there is really no need for another. US Soccer and MLS simply need to get together and make the USOC a highly promoted affair. Now that the league has been split into two conferences the Supporters Shield has no real meaning and a playoff is the only way to determine a champion.

    There is no easy way to organize a playoff series that gives the higher seed a real advantage without playing an odd number of games. Some possibilities might be 1) A tied series goes automatically to the higher seed, making the lower seed win outright in regulation. 2) Give the higher seed the option to host either the first or second game. 3) Play a one-off at the higher seed venue with a replay at the lower seed venue in case of a tie. 4) Institute a home goals rule, making home goals the deciding factor in a tie series.

    Or simply go to a three game series.

    Congratulations to the Sounders on a good year. Get real grass and get players are that are willing to learn from their failures rather than blaming somebody other than themselves. You have one of the best coaches the Galaxy ever had, great ownership and a good fan base. Best of luck.

  11. Once mls reaches 22 teams or even 24, the mls is going to have to reward the number 1 seed from each conference some way – some how. Mls did wrong by making the conference championship a two leg series which could have given sounders a true home advantage. Therefore MLS should make the conference championship a one game and mls cup one game and once the league grows from 20 to 22 or 24, the mls should give the number 1 seed an advantage no matter what. As a matter of fact, for the number one seed to have an advantage, the league would have to get 6 teams per conference in the playoffs in order to work around the planning.

  12. Well, the old saying “The cream rises to the top” can only look at the two teams in the MLS cup. Both know how to prepare and succeed in the postseason. While Kinnear is the superior coach, The Galaxy have the personnel. If anyone complained about the cost effectiveness of the Galaxy signing Robbie Keane for the big money, well, look at the results. The man comes through! While the goals per dollar are expensive, they come at the right time, in the right place.

    • Great point. Which brings me to a question I’m constantly considering…. When is Seattle going to spend some money? Their revenue is ridiculous and the owners pockets are deep. They should easily have the best DPs in the league.

      • Seattle should spend some money on a stadium and/or natural grass first.

        Then they can spend on a DP.

        Guarantee San Jose will have a DP or two when their stadium opens…

      • The assertions about a stadium and natural grass are so idiotic I am struggling to describe them. They have a perfect stadium given the circumstances of the city of Seattle and natural grass in Century Link is impractical to say the least. In a perfect world, completely abstaining from any constraints of reality, yes the Sounders would love to have their own 40,000 seat SSS with natural grass. But given that they are operating in reality, they really have a great situation with Century Link and it’s not going to change in the near future. With that said, they should open the checkbook to get try and add that elusive MLS Cup to their trophy case.

      • What about Seattle makes real grass any more impractical than it is a thousands of other stadiums around the country that have adverse weather?

      • defending field turf is ridiculous. The fans are great, the atmosphere awesome, the team fantastic…and that field turf joke is an affront to them all and honors none of the greatness that the Sounders and the city of Seattle add to MLS.

        We understand the reality of it, and that reality sucks. And the football gods seem to take it out on Seattle year after year as well.

      • CenturyLink is a great stadium and it’s awesome to see the club constantly filling it with 40,000+ fans, but why is natural grass impractical? If rain is the issue, I’d like to direct your attention to soggy England. If it’s the shared field, the Sounders only share the field with the Seahawks for four months out of the year. Seems like a non-issue.

      • Rain and lack of sun plus American football means any grass field would turn into a mud pit. That’s what we’ve been told anyway and I have no information to contradict it. If turf is so unplayable why do all the teams in Russia use it?

      • Turf is common in Central America and Scandinavia too, but neither is exactly the pinnacle of the footballing world. Field turf is playable, but it makes for mediocre play. It rains all day and all night in Manchester, but the stadiums use technology to keep them dry. Raised pitches with under-layers of sand, gravel, etc.

        The real culprit is American football on the same field. Boo to that.

      • Yesterday’s game would have been a disaster if it was a grass field. This may be shocking news for many of you but it tends to rain a lot here especially in the winter. I think most of you complaining about field turf have never played on field turf. In an ideal world grass would be preferred, but given the circumstances the turf is fine.

      • Maybe this will help the obsession. Some are so obsessed with Seattle’s field, they are suggesting to move from the best soccer stadium in the world.

        Think of it as a regional thing. Every kid in Seattle loves turf.
        Very dissappointed when they have to play on grass.

  13. Playoff system needs to reward home field better, we shouldn’t get rid of playoffs but reform it.

    3 game series where higher seed hosts 1 and 3, each game ends in a result, not an aggregate, so it is in effect a mini group stage for two teams, creates a larger sample size to let the better team show their stuff and makes the regular season more relevant, even small point increases can prove very significant. If the same team wins the first two games game 3 doesn’t happen. Ties in points (3-3 or 4-4) either are decided on goal differential or go to extra time after game 3, again rewarding the higher seed. No away goals in an odd numbered series.

    Doesn’t make playoffs go on for too long because you would also eliminate the wild card games, once again making the regular season more valuable by making making the playoffs more of an accomplishment. Third game might not even happen. Keep 1 game MLS Cup, spectacle is important, if you get the two best teams there it’s ok for a smaller sample size at that point.

    Doesn’t decrease the excitement of the playoffs, watch a 7 game hockey series, a 5 game baseball series, even a 7 game basketball series, they are intense, and it’s not like MLS is using a 1 off system now anyway-the fact that each game ends in a given result makes each game intrinsically more important.

    Playoffs are a good way to determine a champion but they have to effectively let the cream rise to the crop, the status quo does not as well as it could.

      • Having more than 2 games played really is such a slippery slope its equivalent to 7 games? That’s what you took away from that?

      • that’s true. but I think the better strategy is to make the regular season more important by determining if you get in at all, not if you get in and an advantage. I wouldn’t mind seeing a format where it’s a 4 team tournament. Top 2 per conference. Supporters shield gets home advantage. nearly half the league in the playoffs is a bit absurd

      • No other league in the US has that few teams make the playoffs for a reason-it is a huge buoy to teams to make the playoffs-obviously this has to be logically limited to preserve competition and not devalue the regular season, but to think MLS clubs would benefit in a relatively infant stage from 16 not making the postseason is foolish.

        I think my proposal of a) decreasing the number of teams to a reasonable extent from 10/19 to 8/20 (7/20 if single table, even more benefits for SS winner, they get a bye) and b) providing benefits for a higher seed finish to every team at every seed level with real home field advantage better accomplishes these goals.

      • Your proposal also either a) results in their being no functional difference between finishing 1 and 4 which seems problematic or b) uses some sort of system to give home field advantage and is ineffective like the status quo and feeds into point a) or is effective and results in what you criticize.

      • huh?
        Conference Champion Vs Conference runner up. Better record gets home field. Then a final. The end.
        Largest stadiums in the country are for college football. Because every regular season game matters.
        If the MLS is going to grow significantly and do more to draw in the casual sports fan, adding games isn’t the way to do it. I do think you’re idea is better in theory than the existing system. But fewer tournament games and more intensity during regular season is better for the league.

      • College football has the biggest seating because they give tickets away dirt free to students. And college football’s current system is bad, evidenced by how they are moving away from it.

        Why do games matter more for 80% of the league? Why do teams 8 and 9 care playing each other in late August, 15 points out of 1st? Your system doesn’t increase relevance, it makes 90% of games matter less.

        If you provide incentives for every game to be a huge deal (real home field advantage where you can always achieve that next level by moving up a seed, each higher seed you are has tangible value) you get exactly what you are talking about. 7 or 8 teams making the playoff accomplishes the goals you want without drastically increasing the number of meaningless games.

      • Also the perceived differences in intensity aren’t a function of how many teams make the playoffs, they’re a function of how often games are. MLB has the fewest teams make the playoffs, a mid-June MLB game is a sleepwalk because of the number of games played, regardless of the fact it is really hard to make the MLB playoffs.

        NFL games, likewise, are gigantic events that are high-intensity regardless of the fact until recently more NFL teams made the playoffs because the games are held weekly, not daily.

        MLS’ intensity problem stems more from things like midweek games and a long-ish season than too many teams making the playoffs.

      • Yeah, I don’t get why people are upset that the playoffs are a crapshoot. The supporters shield is for the best team over the entire regular season and the playoffs is for whatever team gets hot and strings together some wins. Low seeds win all the time in American sports. For example, the 83-81 St. Louis Cardinals won the world series in 2006, the LA Kings won the Stanley Cup as an 8 seed last year and the 9-7 Giants won the Super Bowl last year.

    • regular season should decide league title. Go to a single table when there is 20 teams.

      Then also have a post-season Cup. I would prefer group play. Two groups of 4.

      Then the fans will decide which trophy is more important.

      • Playoff systems determine the best team better. In the most literal sense of the word a purely regular season system is the ‘fairest’ in that all teams play each other equally, it is not the ‘most accurate’.

        Besides the widely cited logistical reasons that make a return to a single table unfair to teams like Vancouver and thus a move to a non-playoff system unlikely, playoffs are better.

        How teams do against each other SHOULD matter disproportionately compared to how they do against the bottom, true, a regular season alone does not guarantee that. Whether or not you get a result away against a middling team should not matter (beyond the extent it already does) more than how you do in a 3 game series against each other.

        How you finish should matter more as well-not all games are created equally and shouldn’t be, how a team plays after 6 months together is a better representation of that team, we should value some times of year over others.

        Don’t get me wrong-games in April matter, as do games against bad teams-my proposal makes them matter more than the status quo, but they should not matter more games later in the year when the best are playing the best.

        BTW-your widely floated idea of a ‘post season disjointed tournament’ sounds like a great excuse for every coach to play there u17 team. There has to be some sort of unifying criteria for what matters and what doesn’t, otherwise you have Seattle’s B team playing Houston’s A team and both arguing over who actually won-that’s not productive for a growing league.

      • Totally disagree with your initial premise. Playoffs determine the best team at that moment. The Galaxy over the course of the year aren’t the best team in the league, but they are the best team right now. Which is more important to the growth of a league?
        I think Hal’s plan is great too

      • To say the Galaxy are the best team right now is to make it out like they’re Columbus, they’ve been the best team since June. That’s a long time and exactly proves my point-how they finish is a better representation of how good a team is, April and May should matter to make the playoffs but should matter less than the most recent games.

        The fact the hot team Columbus is at home and the team that has been the best since June but not since the first two months is in the finals shows why a playoff system is effective.

      • The stats would suggest the Galaxy have been the best team in the league – bar none – since mid-July. Right about the time the internationals returned from duty (and for Becks, his Olympics participation).

    • The real issue is the way they scheduled the playoffs this year. The higher seed was put at a disadvantage after the first round, with both having to travel after winning their series 3 days earlier. With the week in between why did they feel the need to start the confrence finals so quickly. The last two days should have been the first game. In Seattle’s case after the game at RSL on Thursday they flew home friday morning and left saturday morning so they were home for LA.
      I can see that call being made, but it isn’t made often of the two Johansson’s should have been called. I have no problems with the players going off on the ref, most would ignore it given the situation, but look at Geiger’s record for giving cards to everyone not named Keane.
      This series was lost with the joke of a line up Sigi put out in the first game.

      • His team in the first game is because there was a second game, thei home and home thing is the problem. Scrap it its stupid and makes for weird games that are not entertaining.

    • I think this is exactly how the playoffs should work. Galaxy fan here, so obviously I’m happy with last round’s result, but it’s seriously bizarre that we won the Western Conference by losing last night.

  14. Interesting that both teams in final were in the “play-in” or the first round. Will we see a tired looking final? Probably since they have a couple weeks to rest and prepare

  15. congrats to LA for advancing, played very well in leg one.

    for shame on you MLS for having such terrible officials, they have directly affected multiple playoff games this year and it is a running joke in the soccer community. two reds after the whistle, thin skin much geiger?

      • this game is a different story if two calls were different, the PK and the incorrect offsides call that waived off the Sounders’ first goal. Still Seattle’s problem for digging such a hole in the first leg.

      • I may be the only one, but I still think the Ref made the right call on the Johannson hand ball. His hand was out in an unnatural position and it prevented the cross from getting into the box. Seemed like a pretty clear violation on every replay.

      • The ball hit both his arms. There was also a no call earlier inthe game on a chicken wing handball by a Seattle defender.. Instead of complaining about the ref how about not losing 3-0 in the first leg.

      • There is no question it was a hand-ball. If his arms are to his side then it should be a no call, but the cross hit BOTH of his hands and the second was held out like he was signalling to turn left on his bicycle.
        The first Johnson goal should have counted though, but you have to blame the side-line official for that blown call.

      • The Laws of Game say it has to be intentional. I’m a Galaxy fan and I don’t think it was a PK. Going by the letter of the law, very few handballs are actually violations.

  16. That has to one of the ugliest victories ever but what the heck, bring on the Dynamo. The one thing that is most puzzling is LA’s total inability to hold possession, very strange for such a talented team.

    • The way Houston is playing, Galaxy cannot afford to play like they did tonight in the Cup.

      As good as they looked in the first leg, they looked just as bad in the second leg. They were cheaply turning over the ball all night, including Beckham.

    • It seemed to me a combination of wet field turf throwing off a lot of their passes and of course Seattle running like crazy winning 50/50 balls


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