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Juninho road goal returns Galaxy to MLS Cup


Photo by Jane Gershovich/JaneG. Photography


SEATTLE — With the league’s two most star-laden teams vying for a chance to host the MLS Cup final, a most unlikely cast member made all the difference for the LA Galaxy on Sunday night.

With his team trailing the Seattle Sounders 2-0 in the 54th minute of the Western Conference finals second leg, midfielder Juninho stepped into a Landon Donovan pass and volleyed off the left post and past goalkeeper Stefan Frei to pull his team even on aggregate.

“One inch closer to me, and I probably have it,” said Frei. “One inch further out and it ricochets off the post and stays out of the goal.”

It was Juninho’s first goal of the season, but his fourth career goal against the Sounders.

“Juninho finally hit the goal this year,” said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena with a smile. “It was a great goal.”

Despite losing 2-1 on Sunday, the Galaxy advanced to the MLS Cup in front of 46,758 at CenturyLink Field thanks to the away-goals tiebreaker. The Galaxy beat the Sounders 1-0 last weekend in California.

Chasing a league-record fifth MLS Cup title, LA will host the New England Revolution at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, on Dec. 7.

The Sounders pressed hard down the stretch, but only threatened goalkeeper Jaime Penedo a few times. In the 84th minute, late substitute Andy Rose streaked toward the end line and nearly found the far netting off what appeared to be a cross. In the 90th minute Clint Dempsey lofted a 12-yard volley over the crossbar. A DeAndre Yedlin cross found Dempsey in stoppage time, but Dempsey’s first-time effort sailed wide right.

“It was unfortunate,” said Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid. “I’m sure (Dempsey) would have liked to have those volleys back and make a little better contact. That’s something he’s usually pretty good at, and if he hits one of those well we’re talking about a different story right now.”

With the Sounders pressing forward, LA nearly scored again on multiple occasions. Moments after Juninho’s goal, Donovan broke free on the counter but was stuffed by Frei. Only a diving save from Frei in the 66th minute denied a Stefan Ishizaki header.

“I give Stefan Frei a lot of credit,” said Arena. “He came up with two big saves, on Landon’s breakaway and Ishizaki’s header, that could have really put the game away.”

Brad Evans opened the scoring in the 27th minute off a broken combo play between Dempsey and Obafemi Martins. Dempsey first fed Martins to begin a simple give-and-go, but Martins fell to the ground, leaving Dempsey to track the pass into the penalty area himself. Dempsey’s ensuing shot deflected off defender Dan Gargan before finding Evans in front of an empty net at the far post.

Seattle doubled the lead in the 32nd minute when Omar Gonzalez cleared a Yedlin cross directly to Dempsey, who in turn drove a low volley off a diving Penedo to put the Sounders up 2-0 on the night and 2-1 on aggregate.

For a few minutes late in the first half, it seemed the Sounders might run the Galaxy off the field. Chances came in flurries as Seattle attacked with urgency and elan. A Dempsey goal was called back for offside, and Martins just missed a wide-open shot.

“I thought for the last 20 minutes of the first half it was all ours,” said Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid. “We got two goals, we were close to getting a third. We had some really good chances.”

But the deficit seemed to ignite the Galaxy in the second half.

“In a weird way,” said Robbie Keane, “it was probably the best thing that happened, them scoring two goals. Because it made us go out and play a bit more, where we were hesitant, maybe, in the first half.”

With another conference title under their belts, the Galaxy were already looking forward to next week after the match.

“We can enjoy tonight,” said Keane, “but I said to the players, ‘It’s over now, we have to concentrate on next week.'”

For their part, the Sounders were perhaps left feeling they had disappointed their fans despite winning both the Supporters’ Shield and the U.S. Open Cup, and despite returning to the Western Conference finals for the second time in three seasons.

Schmid’s voice cracked when asked if he had anything to say to Sounders’ fans.

“I just say thank you, and we’re sorry. We want to win it for them, we really do.”

Here are the match highlights:


  1. The playoff system is broken. It’s silly that a team should be eliminated after tying a series. It’s even sillier that a higher seeded team can be eliminated after winning at home. What’s the point of playing the regular season? Why is a 1-0 road loss any different that a 2-1 road loss? Aggregate goals was problematic but away goals is nonsensical. The playoffs are a crap shoot when a 2-2 tie eliminates one team.

    I’m partially defending myself from all the commenters above who accused me of Seattle bias (I actually dislike LA and Seattle equally) as well as pointing out how silly it is that we have a playoff system that causes one set of fans to celebrate a 2-1 loss while the other mourns a 2-1 win. We are through the looking glass.

    Soccer is about winning 90 minute games. A goal is a goal is a goal in over two 45 minute halves. Period. Our playoff games should reward winning soccer games, regardless of whether it’s by 1-0 or 30-29.

    • Soccer is about winning on aggregate or away goal tie breaker everywhere in the world. This is how all of the biggest home and away style tournaments decide their victors. UEFA is the biggest club tournament in the world, and they’ve been using this format since before I started watching soccer.

      • These are playoffs for a league, not a continental competition. You can’t seed teams from different leagues and they don’t have any prior history in that season when they meet in knockout stages. You want those matchups to have no home field advantage because neither team came in with a better regular season record.

        Seeded playoffs that are meant to be a continuation of a regular season are different story altogether. In our playoffs, you want to give the higher seed a home field advantage like in all other North American playoff systems.

      • The only other advantage I think the higher seed should have is the option of which leg they want to host. Some may prefer first, others second.

        That’s the only advantage which I could support.

      • But that really isn’t true. For instance in the Champions League in the round of 16 the first place teams will play the second place teams. Or in other words, one team goes into the matchup with a better regular (Champions League) season, and yet they use the exact same rules that MLS used this year. Similarly the Europa League has higher seeded teams and lower seeded teams, yet they also use away goals in the knockout stages.

        They tell everyone what the rules are before they start. The rules are the same for everyone and fair for everyone. Nothing else is needed.

    • Well, it certainly beats a penalty shootout. BTW, some statisticians did a study and found out that home field produces a definite advantage, even when accounting for the success of the teams playing (and that is across all sports).. In other words, it matters and so it makes sense to give more weight to away goals. If they played an extra period and then if still tied, away goals counted, would that make you happy? I’m not sure that’s an improvement.

  2. Absolutely agree that its disappointing that Ishizaki is subbed out by Arena in most games. I’ve seen him play 90 mins and I feel fairly certain that he has it in him. As a Galaxy fan, I have to say that some of Arena’s decisions are baffling to me.

    The MLS cup should be a good game between two very good teams. I truly hope that the Galaxy can win for Landon, but I agree that if they don’t bring their A game to the table, its going to be tough.

    Hopefully, Landon will be in form next weekend. I’ve been critical of him in the past but I certainly have a bit more sympathy as of late reading about his personal struggles. Truth be told, we don’t know what is going on with him and while I used to chalk his off days up to not caring or being lazy, I’m far more hesitant to do that now. I hope, for his sake, that he delivers next week as it seems like he is also hard on himself and no matter the outcome, he will be happiest if he feels he gave it his all in his last game.

    Can’t wait for the cup and so thrilled to be a season ticket holder so I already have my seats. Next Sunday can’t come quickly enough!

    • LD wasn’t at is his best for a better part of the first half last night but he showed up when his team needed him. He’s been on fire for the second half of the season, and the playoffs have been no different either so it will be interesting to see how fired up he comes out for his impending farewell game!

  3. Say what you will, I think the record is clear–the Galaxy and the Sounders are pretty much even. The Sounders just barely squeaked out the Supporters Shield and the Galaxy just squeaked out the playoff victory. Both good teams and really, about the only difference between them is a few inches here and there, a lucky bounce, etc. The few people saying fire Sigi are ridiculous. Both he and Arena are good coaches of good teams. The final should be good, I think the difference will be the Galaxy playing at home.

  4. Once RBNY was eliminated, I thought I would lose interest in these playoffs, but I was only partly correct. The outcomes of the games don’t mean much to me now, but reading the bitter exchanges between the LA fans and the Seattle fans has actually been quite entertaining. I can sympathize with the disappointment of the Seattle fans, because RBNY has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory plenty of times too, but the overwhelming confidence in Seattle — which claims to set the standard for All Things in American Soccer — adds a special tone of bewilderment. Say what you will about the disappointing history of the MetroStars/Red Bulls — and there’s an awful lot to say about it — but they’ve still won just as many MLS Cups as Seattle.

  5. Great Victory!

    I was worried when Deuce scored that rebound. Knew he would score. Happy we contained Oba. Good for Landon to find Juni for the game winner. Thankfully, Seattle couldn’t counter on that crap field either. So glad the G’s were able to hang on.


    • Victory? What are you talking about? The series as 1 win to 1 win with the Galaxy advancing on a tiebreaker. That’s like going through on a penalty shootout.

      It’s absolute garbage that a higher seed can be eliminated with a home win. We have American style playoffs. That’s good. In American style playoffs, one fundamental element is that the team with the worse regular season record has to get the job done on the road. As in win on the road. We had three series during the quarters and semi’s where that didn’t happen yet the lower seed advanced in two of them. That is stupid and makes the regular season worthless. I fail to see how there is any difference between losing 1-0 and winning 2-1.

      These playoffs are illegitimate and we need a system that FORCES THE LOWER SEED TO WIN ON THE ROAD.

      • Jeez Cavan, take the loss with some grace, you don’t hear anyone from The Sounders organization spouting that sore loser drivel do you?

      • I mean really? Galaxy was/is the better team, always have been. The regular season finally the sounders were playing like a bunch of thugs who can’t play soccer which means they had to neutralize the opposing team who was BETTER THAN THEM AT SOCCER by cheap shotting all match.

      • “These playoffs are illegitimate and we need a system that FORCES THE LOWER SEED TO WIN ON THE ROAD.”

        Bahahahaha. You, sir, are hilarious.

      • I’m a neutral fan in this topic. I’m a DC United fan.

        I understand the rules as they exist this year Doesn’t change that it’s silly that Seattle tied two series and their season is over or that both FCD and LA tied their final series yet one is hosting the final and the other is eliminated.

        The rules make no sense. I took friends to the home playoff game against the Red Bulls. They all asked me, “How can DC United be eliminated after winning at home?” Check every other American playoff system. They all require the lower seeded team to win a game on the road to advance. The Galaxy didn’t do that. (The Red Bulls didn’t either) They don’t deserve to go to the final.

        I’m criticizing the rules, not the team and players. They simply played under the rules of the day.

      • Cavan: I’m a Seattle fan. Galaxy won the series, hence the appropriate use of the word “victory.”

        Yes, it was close. Yes, there are all sorts of whatifs we could imagine and re-imagine—whatif Alonso and/or Neagle had been present for the first leg? whatif Penedo hadn’t made those crazy-desperate saves? whatif we went by a second-half, on-the-road, run-of-play-only, non-deflected, secondary-assist-qualifying goal as the tie-breaker?

        Or, whatif we, as Sounders fans, said, “Good game, Galaxy. Congratulations and good luck against NE. We look forward to playing you next year.”

      • You missed the point. I don’t criticize the Galaxy for getting it done under the rules that were handed down to them. I criticize those who implemented the rules.

      • Cavan, okay I can see how I misread you. I can see how the current tie-breaker rules are broken.

        I can also see how a lot of other proposed options are also broken. The playoff format itself is the problem: there simply aren’t enough games to decisively produce a clear champion. Flip a coin five times and it might come up heads every time; flip it 30 or 40 times and the odds of all-heads are very slim. Inevitably, the playoffs will produce indecisive matches with the victor being determined by third tie-breaker or penalties or some other way of saying, “These two teams are equal but we just gotta crown a winner so it’s going to be this one.”

        Because I recognize that the playoffs are inherently broken, I don’t sweat it. I just enjoy the matches.

      • Cavan,

        I’m not a Galaxy fan and I expect the Revs to slice up LA.

        However, here is a cliché to answer you:

        The rules are the same for both teams.

        The Sounder’s had an opportunity to score their own away goal last weekend and failed to. So f++k them.

        The Sounders lost this game because LA produced superior midfield play and the Sounders could not retain possession when they most needed it.

        They got exactly what they deserve which is bupkus.

  6. I’m a Red Bulls fan but moved to Seattle last year. The atmosphere at games here is unlike anywhere else I’ve seen a match (and I’ve been all over from Spain to Italy to Argentina). Best atmosphere by far in the states along with Portland. Would have been a dream to see the Red Bulls play Seattle in Seattle for the cup but I still think the fans get the best final. Revs are red hot right now and the final gets played in a warm climate on grass in LDs fanfare! I get why Seattle plays on turf with the wet conditions here but that turf hurt the team tonight in the sense it was 38 degrees outside. The game turned into ping pong and it looked like it was hard for both teams to control the ball. In any case, if you get a chance come out to a match in the Emerald City in the summer when the weather is awesome. You’ll love it. Oh, and Sigi should be fired. He just can’t do it. To see Jay Heaps get to where he is shows younger coaches have what it takes right now in MLS. Arena still is a great coach but I see this one tipping to the East. Revs 2 LA 1

    • There’s a reason the Sounders scored more road goals then at home and it’s not the supporters. They have to find some kind of better solution to that field.

    • Dont know if I agree with your assessment of Sigi. Supporters Shield and US Open Cup in the bag,…and one goal away from hosting MLS Cup? At some point the players on the field have to do the business.

      But you raise an interesting point about Heaps. Let me extend it. Arena, Schmid, Heaps, Petke, Berhalter, Curtain, Kinear, Olsen, Vermes, Porter,….American coaches. BA and Sigi are obviously the Deans of this group,…but it is encouraging to see clubs taking chances on young American coaches.

      If only the league would start a repatriation program and bring back young American players and pay them competitive salaries in MLS. [Sorry Jurgen!!!] I would love to see my Tim Ream, Mix Diskerud and Jozy Altidore line-up for the Red Bulls next year. Let Henry and Cahill’s contracts expire,….resist the temptation to pay BWP DP money and there you go. A core of young American national team pool players right up the center of the field.

    • I was there. Really good game. Sounders fans are gutted after this result. It really did seem like this was our year.

      By the way, you’re a moron. Your post really made no sense, if you try to read it in the English sense.

  7. LAG fan here and even bigger Donovan fan. He was invisible in the first half but did much better in the second. Needed to put that breakaway chance in the net.

    I thought Keane had a pretty quiet night, and Zardes didn’t contribute much. I still don’t get why Arena subs Ishizaki out every game when he’s been LA’s best player in the post-season. Possession, width, great crossing. He’s been great.

    Tough loss for Seattle. I need to experience a game there someday. Their fans are legit. I’m psyched about the final. Two skilled teams duking it out.

    • Yeah it makes zero sense to take out your best crosser, when you’re putting in Gordon who is the most likely to get on the end of one.

    • G’s win when Bruce makes that substitution pattern. I don’t think Gordon goes in to score. He is put on to hold the ball up and draw fouls. He does both very well. Defensively Ishi gets caught too wide in transition because he plays wide consistently. Zardes is one of the Galaxy’s best defenders at the wide midfield position. So Donovan and Zardes on the flanks and Gordon up top gives the G’s the best defensive shape of any combination on the roster. It also gives them good possession and good counterattacking ability through Donovan, Zardes and Keane. Crossing the ball is not part of that puzzle.

  8. Dempsey failed to show up in these playoffs, should have had numerous goals and got none. Hard to say LA didn’t deserve to go through but if Dempsey could finish Seattle would be in the finals.

  9. Galaxy is going to have it tough vs revolution. Revolution has a complete team and galaxy will have to play it’s best to beat revolution. As for sounders, fire sigi, what in the world are they thinking. Sigi hold back the team and didn’t attack and kill galaxy, oh and that nasty frozen turf is not acceptable for soccer.
    Sounders need a new coach, a stadium with grass and for Dempsey to stop being a thug.

      • Since LA barely squeaked through on away goals and NE is in very good form they should definitely be worried…

      • I say this as a Galaxy fan: We should be concerned about NE, just as we were concerned about Seattle. It’s not like we just waltz passed Seattle. It came down to a good strike by Juninho and the away goals rule.

        LA embarrassed NE in July, but this is not the same team. They’re dangerous and they’re smart. I think LA can win. They’ll be at home with a full crowd, but we can’t look past NE. No way.

        Hashtags and stuff, yeah.

    • Something tells me to put money on the Revs. Jermaine Jones is likely to be out of his mind – if he breaks LA, he’s then money anywhere in MLS, especially LA. And while he’s getting good money over the short term, his contract is up at the end of this next season. Add to that the fact that there’s some very hungry players like Nguyen, Davies, and Bunbury who are trying to convince the soccer world they exist (or exist again), and I think the Revs are likely to see nothing but upside.

      They will get after it. And they may actually be collectively be more talented than the Galaxy now that Jones is with them.

    • Most likely New England will play the counter game. LAG is a better passing team. What N.E. have going for them is that they are playing their very best, their fullbacks are shaky but their Dmids are better than LAG, they have probably the league’s MVP in LeeN. and CD9 and Bun are playing above their usual level.

      For LAG to win they need to keep LeeN in check.
      For the REVS to win JJ has to play like in the WC.

  10. I only saw the highlights so take this for what little it is worth. Omar Gonzalez aappears both mentally and physically lazy. On first goal hedoes not hustle to get to the loose ball when Martins goes down. Probably does not get there before Deuce, but does make ithard to get ball across tne face of goal where Evans was waiting. On second goal, just a failure to think about where to clear the Yedlin’s cross. He seems to react desperately rather than respond with intelligent play. Reminds me of the play in Honduras last cycle and another goal he caused later at Costa Rica. Has he hit his ceiling?

    • He’s not the same anymore, and he gets DP money, wft right. I see Omar going to Mexico ligaMX and getting a big check. He could easily play for a big team in Mexico and make huge money.
      I see revolution winning MLS cup, unless galaxy plays like last year.

      • Where do people get the idea that since he’s not good enough for MLS OG can play on Mexico? He looked way outmatched against Monterrey in CCL and now he’s supposed to “play for a big team in Mexico”? It makes absolutely no sense.

      • I cant speak for others, but I think Omar would do great in a 5 man back line that is commonly used in Mexico. He would be excellent for set pieces, defending and on offense.

    • He was fine. He was already in the book by that point. Gonzales was the main one keeping Martins from running wild early in the game, forcing Martins to play well outside with his back to the goal while also not getting beaten around the edge. He was also preventing seattle from playing balls over the top or crossing very successfully in the late game. I have been critical of Omar but he did well tonight.

    • You’re nuts. The Galaxy gave up 2 goals in 4 playoff games and had the best GAA in MLS this season. Team USA gave up 8 goals in 10 games during the Hex. That doesn’t happen if Omar isn’t doing something right. He also played very well in the WC against some really good strikers. About the only thing Bruce and Jurgen can agree upon is that Omar gets the call, but hey who are those two saps to disagree with Byrdman’s insight based on only seeing the highlights.

    • Wow! Omar lazy. Not good?

      “Omar Gonzalez had 15 clearances and 6 interceptions vs. the Sounders tonight. No player had as much of each in any game in 2014. Seattle’s first shot of the second half came at 88:45. Shocking.” @BenBaer

      Dominating! Of all the DPs in this game Omar was the best (with a very respectful nod to Oba). He and Chad Marshall put on a clinic in center back defending in this series.

      In my opinion Pindedo was the weakest link in the game. He really put the Galaxy defense in a bad position with a poor decision on the first goal. Dempsey did his part with very early recognition of the opportunity. Frei on the day would have done better than Pineda in that situation.

    • I thought he played with a lot of heart. I don’t see him retiring for good.

      I was rooting for the Sounders and getting a little upset with Dempsey. He’s a luxury player who’s not busting his gut for the team when they needed everyone going 110% at the end. If you could put Evans’ heart into Dempsey’s body, they’d make a killer player.

      As it was, he performed his US disappearing act, popping up ever so often to do a poorly executed trick pass that goes wayward or shooting a Hollywood shot into the stars instead of playing the steady ball. If a rookie played the way he did, we’d be on him like bear on honey.


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