The LA Galaxy kept the Seattle Sounders off the board, while Marcelo Sarvas had a great goal to put them up 1-0 in the Western Conference Final. With the second match next weekend in Seattle, LA holds the advantage going into the return leg.
Two main threads defined the proceedings on the field, the physicality and bunkered in play of Seattle and how that forced LA onto the wings. With respect to the latter, LA ended up attempting 27 open play crosses (ten of which connected, a season high) their fourth highest total on the year. Only three times in the 2014 MLS season did a player attempt more crosses than Stefan Ishizaki did tonight.
Key passes for LA are graphed below, splattered all over the field. Chad Marshall had his work cut out for him putting up remarkable defensive numbers, while Zach Scott dealt with the situation by increasing physicality. Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, and Stefan Ishizaki were all big chance creators.
Crosses were quite high for the Galaxy as Seattle bunkered in but they were still quite successful creating chances in the middle of the attacking third. Marcelo Sarvas' goal was a direct result of A.J. DeLaGarza choosing to play short instead of the cross that everyone expected. The midfielder had time to put on a pot of tea before unleashing the shot that beat Stefan Frei.
When it came to the physicality, that shows up in the four first half yellow cards and twenty-five total fouls. Stott was quick to try and control the rough play, with several players saying it wasn't that bad and pretty much what they expected. The exception was Zach Scott, who with a yellow card received several warnings without getting sent off. After the match Omar Gonzalez said:
"It's tough when Stott says to one of your players that he's not going to give a player another yellow because he wants the best players to play in the next game."
This moment came after Scott committed his third foul of the second half knowing he already had a yellow card. Such a blatant admission that he was unwilling to pull the trigger because it would affect the series is well beyond a referee's responsibilities.
Absences are part of the game, with both teams missing some of their key players in this first match. For LA Leonardo had to be replaced by Tommy Meyer who played quite well showing no signs of rust. For Seattle both Osvaldo Alonso and Lamar Neagle had to be replaced, which is part of the reason the Galaxy were able to control the midfield.
For the next leg players can at least go about their business without fear of a second playoff yellow card. The injuries are still a concern with both A.J. DeLaGarza and Marcelo Sarvas leaving early due to precautionary injury concerns. Sarvas may have to get an X-Ray on his hip, but Arena called the injuries "just some nicks" and expects them to be okay.
1-0 is not the best result LA could have hoped for, but this team still hasn't allowed a goal in the 2014 playoffs and they took away Seattle's chance at an away goal. Getting an early goal in Seattle puts the Sounders in a position where they need three goals to advance, and that will lead to open play where anything can happen.
It's halftime, and LA is in a fairly good position.