Seattle never really came close. Los Angeles put on a playoff clinic for the upstart newbies. They began last week in Seattle and they closed the deal tonight in front of a sold out Home Depot Stadium in Carson, Calif. — home to the Galaxy.
David Beckham’s two early assists from his patented bending free kicks underscored the obvious all night — this was a victory for the high-paid professionals of the Galaxy. They disassembled the Sounders 2-1 in the second leg of the Western Conference Semi-final match. Seattle has yet to win a play-off match over two seasons.
The win sent the Galaxy into the Western Conference Finals with a 3-1 aggregate score. LA avoided a first-round upset that afflicted the three other semi-conference matches and now host FC Dallas next week.
Beckham said the victory reflected the strong character of the team and its thirst to hold the MLS Cup. He was right: LA played with a single purpose and every player carried out his responsibility. Defender Eddie Lewis, former U.S. National Team player, continued to frustrate Sanna Nyassi on the right wing. Sean Franklin, LA’s right back, shut down Steve Zakuani. Landon Donovan, U.S. National team star, tracked back deep into his defensive third to double-team Zakuani and others.
LA’s midfield remained disciplined and impervious to Seattle’s efforts to carve it open. With a 1-0 lead from the first leg, the Galaxy could afford to sit back on defense and wait for Seattle. Fredy Montero struggled to find the spaces to weave his magic.
“We still have to grow up a little bit,” Coach Sigi Schmid said. “For us it’s still a matter of maturing, growing up into (being able to play) those big games.”
Beckham knows a thing or two about big games. He put on a show tonight. He sent one majestic lofted ball after another, pinging from one side of the field to the other. It seemed nearly every ball he sent airborne found the foot of one of his teammates in a dangerous area. His right foot was simply lethal. “What we showed today was professionalism,” Beckham said. “We also started off in the right way.”
Indeed. From the beginning of this series, the Galaxy oozed swagger and confidence. They found a way to stop Seattle’s potent attack — pressuring the midfield and denying Nyassi and Zakuani the balls on the wings. They got rough when they had to, sending their midfield enforcer Demo Kovalenko to make the crunching tackle on Montero and others.
And in Donovan, Buddle, Beckham and Mike Magee, the Galaxy flexed enough offensive might to get the job done. Buddle scored LA’s first goal, a header from a Beckham corner kick in the 19th minute. Omar Gonzalez, Galaxy center back, scored the second goal in the 27th minute — a diving header in the box courtesy of a Beckham free kick.
Seattle mounted a furious comeback in the late stages of the match. Zakuani scored a left-footed rocket inside of the six-yard box following composed build-up play. But it wasn’t enough and Seattle never really had a answer to LA’s tactics, and it could never really outperform LA’s veterans who stuck to their well-rehearsed script.
“Hats off to LA,” Zakuani said. “They were the better team. They deserved it.”
The Galaxy never wavered and the Sounders never really responded. That’s why the Galaxy move on to the next round — and deservedly so. The best team in Major League Soccer acted like it Sunday. The best Seattle could do was take notes for next year. LA made a huge statement about its desire to win the MLS Cup.