CARSON, Calif. – Robbie Keane scored two more goals and Mike Magee kept up his playoff heroics as the LA Galaxy moved within 90 minutes of a record eighth MLS Cup title game thanks to a 3-0 rout over the Seattle Sounders at the Home Depot Center on Sunday evening.
Keane scored in first-half stoppage and again in the 67th minute as LA opened a huge advantage halfway through the Western Conference Championship. They can absorb a two-goal loss in the second leg on Nov. 18 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle and advance to the Dec. 1 MLS Cup final, where a rematch with of last year's championship against the Houston Dynamo, a 3-1 winner over D.C. United in Sunday's opener in the Eastern Conference Championship, seems likely.
Keane's goals were his third and fourth of the playoffs, following the pair he scored Wednesday night to oust San Jose in the Western semifinals, and gave him 17 MLS goals (18 in all competitions) since July 23. Magee's strike, in the 64th minute, was his third of the postseason and sixth in his last eight playoff games.
The Galaxy pulled away following a first half that, most of the way, was a tight stalemate played primarily between the boxes and nearly devoid of chances. Both teams found paths to their opponents' box but couldn't do much beyond that, with fine showings from both backlines.
But Keane scored in the first minute of first-half stoppage, beating Adam Johansson to nod home Landon Donovan's chip from the endline at the left post after a bit of clever build-up play.
It came from a counterattack, naturally, with Sean Franklin playing a ball into Seattle's box from the right flank. Christian Wilhelmsson got a touch around Jhon Kennedy Hurtado to Donovan, who eluded Jeff Parke to get in a little cross for Keane to finish.
LA finished off the Sounders with two goals in a four-minute span midway through the second half.
Magee made it 2-0 to finish a counter that started with David Beckham playing the ball forward to Keane inside Seattle territory. The Irish striker played the ball wide to Franklin on the right flank, and his cross into the box found Magee alone in front of the net. Magee's first-time shot left goalkeeper Michael Gspurning no chance.
Keane got the third three minutes later, after Donovan's shot from the top of the box was deflected by Johansson, bounding high toward Wilhelmsson near the right post. The Swedish winger had position on Zach Scott, chested down the ball, then poked it toward the left post under pressure. Keane raced in to knock it into the net.
Both teams were missing their big strikers, at least to start. Galaxy coach Bruce Arena left Edson Buddle off his 18-man game roster, ostensibly because of the short turnaround following the midweek game, but Buddle had left practice early Saturday, gingerly walking off the field. Eddie Johnson, still working toward full fitness following groin and calf injuries, started on the bench after playing the full 90 in Thursday's Seattle win at Real Salt Lake and came on for Fredy Montero after Magee's goal.
LA might have had two more, but Gspurning made a fine save on Marcelo Sarvas in the 71st and Parke cleared a slow-rolling Donovan shot as it neared the goal line in the 76th.
The Sounders had a pair of penalty shouts off a pair of handballs, one in the first half and one in the second, but neither was whistled. This is the second time in two years they’ve dropped a first leg by a 3-0 score, as last year in the Western semis they fell into a 3-0 hole at Real Salt Lake before nearly rallying back with a 2-0 win at home.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Robbie Keane||His argument for playoff MVP grows stronger. Touch, movement, vision... this guy might even make it in the Premiership some day.|
|2||Landon Donovan||Does not look like a player contemplating a break from the game. Cramped up at the end, but that was the only chink in the armor.|
|3||Christian Wilhelmsson||Still not the guy you want finishing a break, but definitely somebody you want making decoy runs. Keane owes him a steak (and a goal).|