Seattle Sounders, who couldn't find a goal in last year's playoffs, continued their post-season goalless streak this evening, losing to Los Angeles 0-1. The Galaxy took the lead in the 38th minute off a spectacular goal from Edson Buddle. The striker performed a perfect pirouette before sending the ball into the top right corner of the Seattle net, catching out Kasey Keller, who couldn't even get a finger on the ball.
The Sounders were left chasing the game and while they were pressing much better in the first part of the second, by the end of the game they were more or less reduced to lobbing balls toward the L.A. goal, where they were almost immediately headed away by the Galaxy defense. Sanna Nyassi's quick runs were neutralized by Landon Donovan and Eddie Lewis, while Seattle was simply unable to get the ball to Steve Zakuani on the left. While Fredy Montero had his usual moments of brilliance, including when he forced a fantastic save from keeper Donovan Ricketts, he wasn't getting enough room to impose his creative self on the match.
Unfortunately for Seattle, central defender Jeff Parke had to leave the match with a sprained ankle and was replaced by Tyrone Marshall. Sigi Schmid waited too long for his second substitution, his usual replacement of Nyassi with Alvaro Fernandez. Considering how ineffective Nyassi was in the seventy minutes he played, Schmid should have taken a risk and replaced him earlier. The Sounders used their third substitution to replace Nathan Sturgis with Nate Jaqua as the team pressed for an equalizer. However, the tactical shift-replacing a defensive midfielder with a forward-nearly resulted in a second goal from Los Angeles, with Juninho running free behind the Sounders defense and skewing his shot just wide of goal.
The Galaxy return to L.A. confident that they will advance to the Western Conference semi-final. The team was able to effectively shut down nearly every Seattle player while still creating chances. In order for the Sounders to collect two goals in Los Angeles, they'll need to change their plan of attack. Rather than lobbing the ball forward only to meet the heads of Omar Gonzalez and company, Seattle needs to channel that energy into something more effective: long-range shots that actually get over the heads of the defenders. It was a long-range shot from Osvaldo Alonso that rebounded to hit the feet of Steve Zakuani in the second minute, allowing Zakuani to put the ball in the net. Sure, the goal was disallowed for being offside, but that's the idea that the Sounders must build upon if they want to advance to the next round.