Ex-USL goalie Josh Saunders shutouts the Sounders at home.SEATTLE - On a rainy and dreary evening, MLS showcased two of its finer sides as the LA Galaxy beat Seattle Sounders FC with a backup goalie filling in for the injured Donovan Ricketts.
Also missing from the starting lineups were Seattle’s Brad Evans and Blaise Nkufo. The Sounders announced that Nkufo and the club had mutually decided to part company mere hours before kickoff. Head coach Sigi Schmid said the decision had been reached several days ago.
Missing on the pitch for LA were starting forward Juan Pablo, defender Omar Gonzalez and ‘keeper Ricketts.
Seattle forward Fredy Montero tested newly inserted LA goalie Josh Saunders early in the match. The Colombian nailed a long-range shot that required a two-handed deflection by Saunders.
By the quarter hour, Chad Barrett proved to be a handful for Seattle defenders. He managed to evade the defense on several occasions. He was thwarted by some fine play by Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and several errant passes inside the penalty area.
Midway through the first half, the Sounders had two excellent chances to score. Midfielder Steve Zakuani made one of his patented runs along the endline and passed it to surprise starter O’Brian White parked high in front of the net. The former Toronto FC player failed to control the ball and was unable to get off a good shot. A minute later, midfielder Alvaro Fernandez had a free header on a cross that went directly into the hands of the Galaxy ‘keeper.
In the 32nd minute, midfielder Osvaldo Alonso hit a corner kick that found the feet of LA defender Sean Franklin and deflected to Montero in front of the Galaxy goal. Saunders needed to make a point-blank save to keep the game scoreless.
White struck again in the 42nd minute on a bad clearance by Galaxy midfielder Chris Birchall. With no one between him and ‘keeper Saunders, White forced the Galaxy stopper to come up big to keep a frustrated Seattle side off the scoreboard.
One minute into extra time, David Beckham lined up 30 yards out for a free kick in the middle of the pitch. His shot headed towards the right corner of the net and barely missed the right inside post.
Seattle held the edge with seven shots on goal, with five of those on target. LA had four total shots, but failed to put one on net.
The Galaxy took the lead in the 58th minute on an outstanding run by defender Todd Dunivant from midfield to outside of the Seattle box. He placed a pass to midfielder Juninho. The Brazilian’s swerving shot was partially deflected by Keller’s right palm, but still found the back of the net to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
Seven minutes later, LA nearly doubled their lead on a pass from Mike Magee to Landon Donovan. The Galaxy midfielder watched as his shot rattled off the crossbar and sailed high into the air.
The Sounders’ White received a pass from Zakuani in 72nd minute of play. White redirected the ball towards the left post and watched in horror as it brushed the outside of the left post.
Galaxy defender Sean Franklin made the defensive play of the night three minutes later. On a cross from Montero to a waiting Roger Levesque, Franklin deftly hit the ball first as the crowd roared for a penalty when Levesque hit the turf. Referee Alex Prus saw no infraction and waved for play to continue.
Saunders made another outstanding save on Montero’s long shot in the 83rd minute. The LA ‘keeper once again kept the Sounders off the scoreboard by diving and extending his right hand to maneuver the ball over the endline.
Seattle attempted to mount a charge in the closing minutes of the game, but LA held to earn their first win of the season.
The Sounders head to New York to play the Red Bulls this coming Saturday, while the Galaxy head back to the Home Depot Center to host the New England Revolution on Sunday, March 20.
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