Finishing in third is not the worst thing in the world, but losing Eddie Johnson would be a blow. The Sounders forward was at least somewhat optimistic about being able to play.
The worst-case scenario from Sunday's game was not a loss. The worst thing that could happen was for the Seattle Sounders to lose a key player to injury. While the extent is not yet known, the early prognosis after Eddie Johnson was forced to leave the game with a tight hamstring is not good.
Before we get too panicky, there's still an MRI to be done on Monday. The results of that will likely determine if Johnson is able to play any or all of the playoff games against Real Salt Lake, which will start at home on Friday and conclude on Nov. 8 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Just to twist the knife a little, Jeff Parke also left the game early although he made it sound as if it was more of a precaution and that he expects to play.
For a second, though, let's talk about this game. The Sounders played reasonably well, and easily could have had two or three goals on another night. As much of a mess as Josh Saunders was coming off his line -- the low point of which was his getting a yellow card for handling the ball outside the area -- he was just as impressive when called upon to make a save. He denied Johnson, Fredy Montero and Mauro Rosales on shots that seem destined to be goals. He also got a little help from the woodwork when Montero hit his diving header off the post and some aid from the referee who waved off a late Brad Evans goal. (As an aside, I think the referee made the right call on the yellow card and have a hard time getting worked up over the handball that negated Evans' goal, as it looked far more obvious in real time than replays indicated it was.)
The game itself was not all that discouraging. Sure, it leaves the Sounders with the seventh best record in the league, which means their backdoor to the CONCACAF Champions League is closed and makes it highly unlikely that they'd play for the MLS Cup at CenturyLink Field. A tie wouldn't have appreciably changed much of that, even if we might have felt a little better about the result.
I don't want to candy-coat this whole thing, but nothing really changed. Getting to the MLS Cup is still the only way we're going to really feel good about this season and the way the Sounders played on Sunday doesn't affect the way I feel about their chances of getting there. Let's just hope EJ makes a quick return.
LA - Mike Magee (Robbie Keane) 83'
Seattle Sounders FC - Michael Gspurning, Adam Johansson, Jeff Parke (Zach Scott 51), Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Marc Burch, Mauro Rosales (Steve Zakuani 82), Osvaldo Alonso, Christian Tiffert, Brad Evans, Fredy Montero, Eddie Johnson (Sammy Ochoa 45).
TOTAL SHOTS: 18; SHOTS ON GOAL: 4; FOULS: 10; OFFSIDE: 7; CORNER KICKS: 6; SAVES: 3.
LA Galaxy - Josh Saunders, Sean Franklin (Bryan Gaul 46), Omar Gonzalez, Tommy Meyer, Todd Dunivant, Christian Wilhelmsson, Juninho, David Beckham (Marcelo Sarvas 62), Landon Donovan, Edson Buddle (Mike Magee 75), Robbie Keane.
Substitutes Not Used: Brian Perk, Michael Stephens, Andrew Boyens, Jack McBean.
TOTAL SHOTS: 18; SHOTS ON GOAL: 4; FOULS: 12; OFFSIDE: 2; CORNER KICKS: 6; SAVES: 4.
LA - Josh Saunders (caution) 4'
SEA - Osvaldo Alonso (caution) 90'
LA - Marcelo Sarvas (caution) 90'
Referee: Kevin Stott
Referee's Assistants: Craig Lowry, Frank Anderson
4th Official: Daniel Radford
Time of Game: 1:53
Weather: Sunny and 88 degrees
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial
Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid
On tonight's game:
"Obviously, you never want to lose a game by giving up a late goal like that. It was a game tonight that could have easily been 6-6. There were chances for both teams. I think you saw two very good teams playing against each other. Two good teams that have a lot of ability... that have a lot of ability defensively and to be able to get forward. A little bit of an error on our part on the goal. We didn't shift over quick enough and were caught 3-v-2 on the other side of the field, and Magee finished it well. On the other end, we got denied two, three times by (Josh) Saunders on some pretty big time saves."
On the atmosphere of the game:
"It had two good teams making sure they are ready for the playoffs- that gave it that playoff intensity. There is a lot of pride in those players that stepped onto the field and that pride was definitely evident. LA is the defending champion and they are not going to give it away easily. We are a team that wants to get there, so we will fight and scratch to get there. It was two teams going at it."
On missed opportunities:
"A little break here or there would have made a difference. We hit the post early on, and they hit the post later on with Keane. Freddy (Montero)'s header was clean in, Eddie (Johnson) had a couple opportunities before he came off. In games like that it is a little bit of: are you able to finish chances when you get them and keep them from finishing their chances when they dominate the game. It is something that has to serve for us as motivation as we go into our next series of games"
On the team's mood entering the playoffs:
"I think we are ready for the playoffs, tonight has to be a good motivator. Sometimes when you get slapped a little bit towards the end of the season it can be a good thing because it reminds you of how that feels and it is a feeling that you don't want to have come back. I think this team definitely has what it takes to make a run at the championship. There is enough quality on the field, enough quality on our bench, and the desire is definitely there."
On heading into playoff series with Real Salt Lake:
"Obviously we need to win at home and we need to get something on the road. We are at home first, last year it was the opposite, so we need to do the same kind of job that they did on us last year. Eddie (Johnson), we'll see tomorrow exactly where he stands, we took (Jeff) Parke out just out of precaution, because he felt a little bit tight so we wanted to make sure nothing went wrong there. It is something where we have to see where we are at and see what players are available to us. Salt Lake have some guys with injuries as well. We are going to put out 11 players they will put out 11 players and they will decide it on the field."
Seattle Sounders FC Forward Eddie Johnson
On his injury:
"I made a couple of long runs early in the game and (the) hammy kind of tightened up on me. My game requires making hard runs behind the back four. I tried to set the defender up, like I was going to come to the ball and check to the right. I felt a big cramp in my hamstring. I know what that feels like so I was smart, I came out. I didn't try to force it, but there's definitely something there. If I tried to play, I would have been restricted. The smart thing for me to do, what is best for the team, was for me to come out."
Seattle Sounders FC Midfielder Brad Evans
On the attacking nature of the game::
"Both teams had chances. They were able to capitalize on their one shot from outside the box. I think that overall a decent performance from both sides. I think we've won every game, the last game of the season, so far. I don't know if that's right, leading up to the playoffs, so hopefully this is a good omen. And, we get off on the right foot next week."
On the Galaxy's performance:
"I think if you look at their lineup that's the way they play. They push numbers forward. They have high quality players and anytime you are going to face that team - they are going to push numbers forward and try to attack. They catch you on a break and both teams like to counter attack, so it's going to happen in this game. We were prepared for it and I think that both defenses made good saves, keepers made good saves. I think we were unlucky not to finish a couple of our chances. But, they finished theirs. It's the name of the game."
Seattle Sounders FC Defender Jeff Parke
On coming off early:
"I didn't want to pull anything right now. Its crunch time and it's more important that I'm healthy (rather) than being out there and trying to push through a game that doesn't really have too much meaning for us. It's just precaution and getting ready for next week."
On the result:
"I didn't expect for them to come out and push the way they did. I thought that they would rest more guys for Thursday, getting themselves prepared for an important game. They pushed the game and pushed the tempo. We had our chances, but we definitely didn't expect a game of that magnitude. They played well, but I thought we had our chances."
LA Galaxy Head Coach Bruce Arena
Overall thoughts on tonight's game:
"Tonight was a real good game. It was a competitive game, very competitive game, two good teams, and to come out on top is terrific. I think this is a real good week for our team with the win in El Salvador and the win tonight. It's involved twenty-something odd players and I think as we enter the playoffs if we have any aspirations of defending our MLS Cup title, I think obviously we're going to need to use (these) players. We know that group is going to be real difficult on Thursday and if we're fortunate to get past them, it's a quick turnaround. We'll have to use up a player, so I think we've accomplished that this week. That's one of the things tonight, I thought, Bryan Gaul came in and gave us a good 45 minutes for Sean [Franklin], I think Marcelo [Sarvas] and Mike Magee made great contributions as well, and I think that's an important aspect for our team."
On the schedule:
"As I just said, we were in El Salvador on Thursday with 15 other players and we were somewhere in El Salvador, I don't know exactly where but it was a lot of travel and a demanding game there and there's no reason to believe our group, majority of them who played tonight can't recover and be ready on Thursday and others ready for Sunday. However our guys respond we have enough choices to field a team on Thursday and win the game."
On David Beckham and Landon Donovan's return from injury:
"I didn't expect Landon to play 90 [minutes]. Beckham would have played 90 if I had allowed it. He's probably going to have me removed from my position. We'll see if I'm here tomorrow, but we need to be smart about that. It was predetermined and we discussed that in advance of this game and he understood the minutes he was going to play."
On Landon Donovan's play:
"I told him I wanted him to play a minimum of 60 minutes and gave him the call on whether he could keep going and he said he was fine, he wanted to go. Landon generally needs about a half to get fit and he's one of those rare breeds. I think the 90 minutes was good for him and he should recover fine."
On Robbie Keane's Player of the Year award:
"I think it's an honor he really deserves. He's clearly had an outstanding year for us and I think once he returned from the European Championships he's been as good as any other player in the league. He's been outstanding and I hate to say this but I think that award was voted on by the sports writers which is amazing you guys got something right. I agree completely. Well done."
LA Galaxy Forward Robbie Keane
On being named LA Galaxy's Player of the Year:
"It's obviously nice to be recognized in my first full season. You never take award lightly, it's a great achievement, it's great to get them and like I said, it's great to be recognized."
On partnering with Edson Buddle:
"It was good, he's getting stronger and stronger. With any player it takes a few games to get your match fitness and he's certainly doing that so he'll be a key player for us in the next couple weeks hopefully."
On whether his ability to create chances often gets overlooked:
"I've always been that kind of player to always create chances. In England, I was kind of a, if you like, a number 10; always played off a big man and played in the hole. Especially when I was at Tottenham for such a long time, I played in the hole and my job was to score goals. I think when people see you as a striker they always judge you on your goals rather than your other play - your team play or your assists."
On playing a tough game against a strong opponent right before the playoffs:
"Listen, there are no easy games. We know that we're playing against a good team and we lost twice to them this season so it was important to get that monkey off our back if you like. Hopefully we'll see them in the semifinals and it'll be the same result."
LA Galaxy Midfielder Mike Magee
On his game-winning goal and the 1-0 result:
"I wouldn't call it too clutch. I think if I do that again on Thursday I'll be a lot happier. We'll take it. We always want to win and especially against a team we're hoping to see in a couple weeks."
On playing Seattle and the tough nature of the game:
"I think every time we play them it's definitely been intense. They're a team that they had to win tonight, so obviously we didn't but we didn't want to give them any psychological advantage, we never want to lay down in front of our fans or anything like that so it's always going to be heated no matter what the importance is."
On the performance of goalkeeper Josh Saunders:
"Josh was ridiculous tonight. If it weren't for him, I think we're not winning tonight's game. That's how we need Josh and that's the Josh we know. That's what we expect out of him."
On Beckham and Donovan returning to the lineup ahead of the playoffs:
"That's massive; without those guys we're taking a huge hit. To get them some minutes and kind of get their legs underneath them before the playoffs is huge."
LA Galaxy Midfielder David Beckham
On his performance and the plan for him to get healthy before the playoffs:
"The plan was kind of 60 [minutes] and I shouted over and said ‘can I have 65?' and then I said 70 and then Bruce brought me off at 61 so I wasn't that happy, but no, obviously it's been a while for me being on the field so it's good to get the minutes I did."
On his fitness:
"Today I felt a lot stronger than I did against Colorado when I came back after a few weeks and the ankle didn't feel right. I was honest with Bruce and with the physios, I'm not always honest, but with this I had to be. The ankle wasn't right so I sat out a few more games and then it felt strong today."
On the importance of the result:
"You want to play against the best teams and the best players and obviously Seattle is one of the best teams in the league so tonight was an important game for a few reasons: obviously to kept the momentum going into the playoffs and to get a result against a very good team."
On the changes in the lineup with Donovan playing in midfield and Sarvas coming off the bench:
"It's great to have options; it's great for Bruce to have options. Marcelo has been in good form, but Edson has come in (and) he's playing well, he can beat some people up there and it's good to have a player like him. And then obviously with Landon's pace on the left and Christian's on the right it gives us many options. It's worked well with whatever players have played, but tonight I think we looked good."
On the biggest challenge Vancouver poses:
"I think they've got a lot of character as a team. They've obviously got a few good players as well; they've got a lot of unity, when we've played them in the past they've showed that and it's been difficult to break them down and difficult to win the game. There's going to be many obstacles, especially it being a playoff game and a one-off game, it's going to be difficult."
LA Galaxy Midfielder Landon Donovan
On the hard-fought game and the team's performance:
"I think the thought process behind Bruce putting out a real lineup as opposed to resting a bunch of guys was we wanted to get some rhythm and some continuity heading into the playoffs. We certainly weren't perfect and we were maybe a little lucky at times and Josh made some good saves, but I thought we played actually pretty well and I think we feel good now going into the playoffs."
On going 90 minutes after missing the last game with injury:
"When Sean came out it put us a little behind the eight ball. I was fine, a little tired but I was fine otherwise and we have enough days now, I haven't played in a while, I have enough days to get ready for Thursday so it was good to get 90 in."
On the team being ready for the playoffs:
"I think we feel good. We probably feel like every other team, we think we have a real chance to win it."
On playing in the midfield for the first time in months and where he would like to play going forward:
"That's up to Bruce. Edson's been playing well now and when he's healthy and playing well, he gives us an element that we don't have and he can help us a lot. I thought it worked out pretty well tonight. I thought he played pretty well, maybe on a different night he scores a goal. But, I can play anywhere; I'll let Bruce decide that. I've always been someone who wants to win and I don't care where I play to be honest. I know what my role is regardless of what position I'm in and it doesn't change."