SEATTLE, Wash. – They may not admit it, but for the Seattle Sounders, Wednesday night’s wild Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs Knockout Round victory over the LA Galaxy was not just your average playoff win.
At long last, the Sounders got the best of their unquestioned arch-nemesis. The Galaxy, after all, has ended Seattle's postseason in three of the last six seasons, including an excruciating Western Conference Championship exit last year that saw the Sounders ousted on the away-goal tiebreaker.
But on Wednesday, Seattle put those demons to rest, dispatching of the Galaxy 3-2 courtesy of a beautiful 73rd-minute, left-footed long-distance strike from midfielder Erik Friberg.
“Having gone through some of the struggles we went through [against the Galaxy], it makes you stronger,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said after the game. “You learn more from failure than you do than from success sometimes. We struggled a little bit but I think the guys knew, ‘Hey, this is a window of opportunity we’ve got to take advantage of.”
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The Galaxy certainly didn’t make it easy to do so.
The Sounders snatched the lead twice in the first 12 minutes, the first on a tally from Clint Dempsey and the second from summer acquisition Nelson Valdez. Both times, LA answered right back with equalizers that took the life out of the CenturyLink Field crowd as quickly as the goals had sent it into euphoria.
“I’m sure it was exciting for the people watching the game,” Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei said. “But as a goalkeeper, it was pretty nerve-racking. That’s what happens when you have two teams that have that quality up top. I’d say anybody that’s a fan of [soccer] is pleased with the kind of game that was.”
It seems fitting that the game-winning goal came from Friberg, who hadn’t scored in MLS play all season after joining the club in June, and may not have drawn the start if not for injuries in Seattle’s midfield.
“I asked [Friberg], ‘When was the last time you scored a goal like that?’" Schmid said. “And he [thought about it then] goes, ‘Well…. I don’t think I’ve ever scored one like that.”
Seattle now have a Conference Semifinal-opener this Sunday for which to prepare, with plenty of health concerns to deal with in the meantime. Midfielders Osvaldo Alonso and Marco Pappa each missed Wednesday’s contest, while captain Brad Evans picked up a hamstring injury late, putting his status for Sunday up in the air.
“The difficult road lays in front of us,” Evans said. “We’ve only got three days to rest and we’ve got to use that wisely and use it to the best of our abilities. Hopefully, we’ll get some guys back for this weekend and we push forward.
“But our current run of form can propel you into the unknown. That’s kind of what we’re riding right now.”