SEATTLE — Momentum had clearly swung.
When Zach Scott scored on a glancing header in the 57th minute, he had pulled the Seattle Sounders to within one goal of the LA Galaxy, who had entered the second leg of the Western Conference Championship with a three-goal aggregate lead.
The crowd of 44,575 was literally shaking CenturyLink Field and the impossible was suddenly seeming plausible.
That’s as close as the Sounders got, though. About 10 minutes later, referee Mark Geiger whistled Sounders right back Adam Johansson for a hand ball and Robbie Keane buried the ensuing penalty to push the Galaxy’s lead back to two goals and effectively end any chance for a comeback.
It ended 2-1 to Seattle on the night, but 4-2 LA on the two-leg aggregate.
“The hand was in an unnatural playing position, and he was making himself bigger by taking space,” Geiger explained via the pool reporter afterward. “His arms were outside of his body.”
Regardless of how he saw it, one thing was clear to the Sounders.
“I haven't seen it, but whether it was or wasn't a penalty, it just killed our momentum,” said midfielder Steve Zakuani.
More chances came, but the finishing touch was no longer there. Jeff Parke found some space for a header, but hit it just wide. David Estrada got a good look 1-v-1, but LA 'keeper Saunders made the save. On a night the Sounders needed to be almost perfect, they came up just a bit short.
The penalty call aside, numerous Seattle players acknowledged they had no one to blame but themselves for even being in that situation.
"It was too much of a hole,” Zakuani said. “We still believed. I still think that we could have beat LA by three like we needed to. We didn’t come into the game hoping, I really thought we could do it.
"But you can’t give Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan and David Beckham a 3-0 head start. If they had given it to us, it would have been the same thing. Playing them at 0-0 is hard enough.”