Seattle Sounders FC won its fist game on grass by beating the LA Galaxy 2-0. It was the Galaxy's first loss in seven matches and Seattle's first win in four.
Rookie Steve Zakuani opened the scoring in the 22nd minute after David Beckham was sent off for a studs-up tackle. Fredy Montero added the second in the second half. Late in the game Tyrone Marshall and Eddie Lewis both found themselves down in the tunnels for early baths.
The match started mundanely enough. Steve Zakuani was whistled for a pair of offsides early and Alan Gordon failed to connect with the knock-down of a Jovan Kirvoski cross in the early going.
In the 17th minute, everything changed. The Galaxy had edged possession and what little chances had come until then. But David Beckham proved a game changer of the wrong sort for the Galaxy. He lunged into a studs-up tackle, his right book sailing over the ball and into the shin of former teammate Pete Vagenas. Referee Ricardo Salazar issued a straight red to the league's highest paid player. It was Beckham's first red since February 17, 2007, when he suited up for Real Madrid against Real Betis.
The last time LA went down a man, it crumbled to a 2-0 loss away to Real Salt Lake. It proved a foreshadowing statistic, and Seattle went ahead in the 22nd minute. Brad Evans capitalized on a poor defensive header by Gregg Berhalter and ran at the aging defender. Once again, Berhalter was caught out for pace as Evans blazed past him, shrugging off a half-hearted shoulder barge to slip to the near post. He laid the ball across goal for Zakuani to slam home.
It was a gut-wrenching couple of minutes for the Galaxy, which had looked the better of the team thus far in the match.
Briefly, LA hit back with a spell of decent chances. In the 27th minute, Chris Klein flicked a ball back into the box from a corner and the out-stretched toe of Kirovski nearly made connection. The ball fell harmlessly to Kasey Keller.
After that, Seattle started staking its dominance. The pace of Montero and Zakuani in particular caused the Galaxy defense issues. Those two combined in the 38th minute as Seattle came galloping down on a counter. Montero fed the ball through to meet the diagonal run of Zakuani, and the rookie centered for Nate Jaqua. The ball was poked away at the last moment.
The teams mimicked that play at the other end as Tyrone Marshall poked the ball away Alan Gordan's service off the foot of Kirvoski.
A goal and a man down, the Galaxy threw Landon Donovan onto the pitch, even though the United States star has H1N1 Influenza.
Despite the substitution, Seattle continued its dominance. Almost straight away, the Sounders had a triple chance. Montero's service found Jaqua in the box, who turned and shot directly into Donovan Ricketts in the Galaxy goal. Osvaldo Alonso burst into the box to shoot the rebound, but AJ DeLaGarza blocked it on the line. Montero then tried his luck, but Ricketts once again pushed it away to mean no goal came from the most exhilarating play of the game.
By now the action was all Seattle's way so the second goal came as no surprise. Pete Vagenas lofted in a corner and Jaqua won his aerial battle to head it down. It fell to the top of the six-yard box, where Montero was the only one to react. He spun and smashed the ball home to double the lead.
Two minutes later, the Sounders nearly had another off a gorgeous flowing move. Montero chipped to the other side of the box where Zakuani laid off the ball with a one-touch flick to Vagenas. The former Galaxy midfielder played a backheel to Brad Evans, who curled the ball toward the far post. Ricketts made the save at full stretch.
The match degraded into a feisty mess after that. Rough tackles flew in and players bickered at each other. Donovan and Marshall in particular engaged in a yelling match over a raised elbow by the Jamaican that Donovan didn't appreciate.
Donovan started taking over the game, bursting forward from his right wing position to spray the ball wide left and unnerve the Sounders defense. In the 76h minute, he gathered after DeLaGarza had stripped substitute Sebastien Le Toux and ran at a sparse Seattle defense. Finding only Marshall in his way, he tapped the ball to one side and collided with the previously-booked defender. The referee had no choice but to show Marshall his second yellow of the night.
Eddie Lewis hit a gorgeous freekick from the restart, but Keller leaped across the goal to save.
A minute after that free kick, Lewis was sent off. As he and Sounders fullback James Riley went for a ball out of bounds, Lewis' flailing arm caught Riley on the back of the head. Riley went down and the referee brandished his third red card of the night. It was a harsh call, especially since it was a straight red.
Seattle, still a man up, had a few more chances on the break, but Ricketts kept the score down. As the 90th minute approached, many Galaxy fans headed for the doors, making the sparse 20,162 even thinner. By then, Seattle's first grass win wasn't in doubt.
Zac Lee Rigg, Goal.com
For more on Major League Soccer, visit Goal.com's MLS page