CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy didn't have Robbie Keane, and Clint Dempsey was a no-show for the Seattle Sounders. But the missing star power couldn't dim the festivities Sunday afternoon when the Western Conference's reigning powers faced off at sold-out StubHub Center.
Jaime Penedo made 10 saves – six of them massive and four of them on Lamar Neagle alone – and Alan Gordon tallied on a set-piece header midway through the first half as the Galaxy (2-2-2), who started the day in the Western Conference cellar, bounced back from back-to-back shutout defeats to post their first victory since opening day.
Gordon's strike in the 23rd minute provided the 1-0 scoreline in a tense, often thrilling encounter that extended LA's home unbeaten streak in this series to 10 games.
With David Beckham watching from a luxury suite, the Galaxy also pushed their StubHub unbeaten streak to 25 games, all competitions, since falling in their 2014 MLS opener.
Keane was out with a previously undisclosed groin injury sustained at the end of last week's loss at Vancouver, and the Galaxy made changes on each line. Gordon got the call up front, partnered with Baggio Husidic to start and then Gyasi Zardes – who began on the left flank as LA started in what Bruce Arena later called a 4-2-3-1 – from about midway through the first half.
Rafael Garcia got his first league start since June 2013 in central midfield, with Mika Väyrynen on the bench after sustaining a calf injury last week. Outside backs Robbie Rogers and Dan Gargan returned to the lineup, with AJ DeLaGarza moving to center back and Tommy Meyer back on the bench.
Dempsey didn't travel after tweaking his hamstring last week in training, so head coach Sigi Schmid moved Neagle up front, and Marco Pappa returned to the lineup on the left side of midfield. Andy Rose moved from the right into the center in place of suspended Gonzalo Pineda, and rookie Cristian Roldan, from nearby Pico Rivera, California, manned the right flank.
The Galaxy pressed at the start without much to show for it, and the Sounders (2-2-1) started gaining the upper foot about eight or nine minutes in and quickly created three outstanding chances.
Penedo handled all three, leaping to tip a Neagle header over the crossbar from Osvaldo Alonso's cross in the ninth minute, slapping away Chad Marshall's header on the corner kick that followed, then gathering an Obafemi Martins shot that needed more pace in the 14th. He made another diving stop on a Neagle header, from Dylan Remick's cross, in the 21st.
The Galaxy scored against the run of play in the 23rd, then played on even terms or better the rest of the way.
Juninho's free kick from the right flank found Omar Gonzalez at the far post, and he nodded the ball across the face of goal to the right post, where Gordon got free and headed the ball into the upper-right corner from close range. It ended a 290-minute scoreless streak for LA, who had been shutout in successive losses to D.C. United and Vancouver and had last tallied three minutes into the 1-1 draw with Houston on March 21.
That was the Galaxy's only shot on goal until the start of second half, when Rogers forced Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei down at the left post after a clearance came to him in Seattle's box.
Penedo continued to make big plays. He corralled a hard shot from Neagle in the 37th minute, made a point-blank stop of Rose from Neagle's short cross in the 53rd, halted Neagle at the right post in the 56th, then cut off a dangerous ball from Roldan to Pappa in the 67th.
He didn't have to do much on Martins' last chance, a blistering shot from just outside the box straight at the 'keeper.
Down the stretch, the Sounders brought on Chad Barrett and then Aaron Kovar, who had an opportunity on the left in the 87th minute but was closed down by Penedo. Brad Evans fired high from a free kick into the box two minutes later.
Jose Villarreal, who missed the game in Vancouver with a hamstring strain, came on in the closing minutes.
Both teams are back in action next Saturday, with LA home against Sporting Kansas City and Seattle visiting Colorado.