SEATTLE — Playing the biggest game of their MLS careers, it was hard not see the contrast between the performances of Eddie Johnson and Fredy Montero.
While Montero was pulled with 17 minutes remaining and has now gone 10 playoff games without scoring a goal, Johnson scored his first career playoff goal and had another incorrectly waved off.
In the end, having just one of their high-scoring forwards playing at the top of their game wasn’t enough as the Sounders fell to the LA Galaxy in the Western Conference Championship on Sunday, winning the battle 2-1 but losing the war 4-2 on aggregate.
“Sometimes in life you work so hard, you put everything out there and things just don’t go your way,” Johnson said. “It was painful today. They got the job done in the first game and, when you put yourself in a difficult situation against the defending champs, it’s tough to get back.”
Johnson did his part to make that happen virtually from the opening whistle. His first big moment came in the 11th minute when he got on the end of a Christian Tiffert cross and easily beat Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders. Although replays showed that he was onside, the goal was disallowed.
Undeterred, Johnson found himself with another chance off a Zach Scott pass over the top of the defense. EJ made good on that one, too, bringing CenturyLink Field to life.
“I think that we always respond when we are facing adversity,” Johnson said. “We always know how to turn things around, and we couldn't have asked anymore from ourselves. We did everything right tonight.”
Putting in a strong effort is unlikely to make the loss feel any better.
“The most painful thing is we’re not going to MLS Cup,” Johnson said. “We all cry, we all have feelings, we’re all human beings. That hurt today. It still hurts. I’ll probably cry some more afterward. There’s no success without failure and hopefully we can get it right for next year.”
One of the big offseason questions will surely be if Montero is there alongside him. Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said the decision to pull Montero did not have a larger meaning, though.
“We just felt we needed a little more energy, felt David [Estrada] could give us some of that,” said Schmid, pointing out that Montero had a couple decent scoring chances in the game. “We felt we needed to put a little more pressure on their goalkeeper, chase, get some fresh legs out there.”