The LA Galaxy have reason to be furious after a perfectly good goal by Omar Gonzalez wasn't awarded at the end of the first half Sunday night, a decision that could have cost them a top-three seed in the West and forced them to begin the postseason with a Knockout Round game, just like last year.
But Robbie Keane, making his case for MLS' Most Valuable Player honor, played savior with about 15 minutes to go, lifting the Galaxy into a 1-1 draw at Seattle and providing a full week to prepare for their Conference Semifinal series with Real Salt Lake, which opens next Sunday evening at the StubHub Center.
Keane's strike in the 78th minute, a half-volley that took a handsome bounce off the artificial turf and nestled into the right-post netting, was as big a goal as LA have scored this year, and it provided an emotional turnaround for a team that was reeling after Gonzalez's 42nd-minute header wasn't counted.
“It's always dangerous when a team goes 1-0 up, and when you're playing against the Galaxy, we know we're quite capable of scoring at any time, and that was the case,” Keane, who netted his 16th goal of the campaign, fifth-best in the league, told reporters in Seattle.
“Maybe in the first half they thought the game was over, but in the second half we came back strong and looked like the team that was always going to score.”
Seattle, who needed a victory to avoid a Knockout Round showdown with Colorado, appeared to be in optimal shape at the close of the first half. The Galaxy were unnerved by assistant referee Greg Barkey's failure to confirm the goal after Gonzalez nodded Landon Donovan's corner kick into the net. Osvaldo Alonso cleared it, but video clearly showed the ball had crossed the goal line, by perhaps a yard or so, before Alonso made contact.
“I saw it very clearly,” Donovan told reporters. “I saw it as clearly as the linesman, so for me it was a no-brainer. I was looking right across, waiting for him to put his flag up and signal goal, but for whatever reason he didn't.
“I would suggest that goal-line technology would help, but that one didn't even need goal-line technology. It was real obvious. It's unfortunate. We've had a little hard luck with some linesmen this year, but hopefully it gets better in the playoffs.”
Keane was barking at Barkey and referee Mark Geiger, then in frustration took down Seattle defender Djimi Traoré and was shown a yellow card.
“I mean, it was so obvious, wasn't it?” LA's captain said. “I was standing right there. That's why I went a bit crazy at the referee, because I was right beside [the play] and I knew the ball was over the line. When something like that happens, it's very frustrating. ... I don't know whether [Barkey] was in line or not, I'm not too sure, but if he wasn't, it's a big problem.”
The play loomed over the game until the 78th, when a cross was headed into the air by Seattle's defense and again by Gonzalez before Hector Jimenez nodded it back to Keane at the top of the box.
“I knew I had to just hit it into the ground," the Irish international said, "because there were so many bodies [in the box], and with this turf, it was going to take off, and lucky enough it did.”