Seattle Sounders FC were blown away by the LA Galaxy’s three-goal first half at CenturyLink Field on Monday night.
Gyasi Zardes, Landon Donovan and Stefan Ishizaki were on the score-sheet, before a goalless second period sealed the result and knocked the Sounders off their perch, casting doubt over their Supporters’ Shield ambitions for the first time.
Meanwhile, the Galaxy moved up to fifth in the overall standings, and suddenly added credence to claims that silverware remains at the forefront of their minds in this topsy-turvy campaign.
Seattle had managed a stalemate against Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, but elsewhere their Western colleagues suffered a 7-0 humiliation at the hands of Manchester United – a thrashing that they were eager to put behind them with a league success.
Indeed, all thoughts of Los Angeles’ friendly misdemeanours were instantly forgotten here, with an eighth-minute opener. Marcelo Sarvas’ precise pass split a Rave Green back-line missing All-Star Chad Marshall, and Donovan selflessly squared for Zardes to power past Stefan Frei.
This immediate pressure continued, and after Robbie Keane’s thump was held, another goal followed. Sarvas was again the instigator, firing a deflected shot on target, and when the goalkeeper tamely parried, Donovan was on hand to tuck away the rebound.
Still the Sounders struggled to progress past the halfway-line, and the Galaxy’s second goal-scorer was at the centre of every move, blazing over from his captain’s perfectly-weighted lay-off.
Sigi Schmid’s side had suffered a similar early assault back in May when the New England Revolution blitzed the then-table-toppers 5-0 in Massachusetts, but on home turf this had an extra sting, and soon got worse. Sarvas once more provided the assist, as the ball was worked from left to right by the Californians, ending in a ferocious low pile-driver from the onrushing Ishizaki.
This was the first time that Seattle had conceded three times in a single match in the Emerald City since Cascadia rivals Vancouver Whitecaps FC notched four last October, and the flow of clear-cut chances showed no signs of slowing. Zardes could and should have added to his tally, with Frei superbly denying his first effort and gratefully clutching a rushed second.
As referee Hilario Grajeda beckoned the interval, the hosts reflected on an opening period in which they hadn’t mustered a single serious attempt, but the restart was to bring more of the same.
LA were benefitting from a complete absence of Sounders FC’s usual confidence with the ball, and Keane swiftly took interest in improving his remarkable record of seven conversions in his last five meetings with these opponents. However, having peeled away from his marker, the Irishman sent a bobbling volley on its way for a throw-in.
A riposte in the form of a goal-mouth scramble led to nothing, and crucial interceptions from Frei and Zach Scott were required to prevent further home misery. An otherwise-anonymous Clint Dempsey very nearly lashed into the corner after a neat dribble, but Jaime Penedo’s strong reaction was as admirable as any Galaxy attack.
The introduction of a pair of forwards did few favours for Major League Soccer’s leading scorers, as chief front pairing Dempsey and Obafemi Martins were starved of service from unorthodox wide-men.
At either end, Ishizaki’s 79th-minute blast and Michael Azira’s speculative ranger were both expertly saved, but the visitors were now seemingly content with defending their momentous lead.
Seattle’s useless frustration was evident in the closing stages, but after Tristan Bowen’s late prod had been easily gathered, and Martins’ smash blocked, a bitterly disappointing evening was concluded.