The Sounders made a gamble with their tactical approach and it blew up in their face.
What an absolutely epic disaster. MLS Playoff games are almost never blow outs and for the second straight year, the Seattle Sounders found themselves on the wrong end of one, falling 3-0 to the LA Galaxy on Sunday.
At this point, the Sounders could perform one of the most epic comebacks in MLS history, go on to win the MLS Cup and there would still have to be some serious questions about why they found themselves in this position to begin with. That it happened once is bad enough. That it happened again is the cause for some serious soul-searching.
In reading through Schmid's postgame comments, the plan was clear: the Sounders were hoping to win the possession battle and limit their exposure. The 4-5-1 setup was a gamble that was either going to make Schmid look like a tactical genius or a crazy person. Schmid was surely relying on the fact that a defense that had given up just two goals in their past seven games and a goalkeeper who had never allowed more than two goals would be up to the task.
As it turned out, it may have played right into the Galaxy's plans. This is a team that kills opponents on the counter-strike and the Galaxy were able to exploit that repeatedly in the second half. That the Sounders had a huge possession advantage was negated by a handful of sloppy passes in the midfield, a defense that got caught being sucked into the attack and an utter lack of anything really dangerous in the offensive third.
To the Sounders credit, they didn't complain about the short rest or the messed up travel schedule. They know that excuse would only get them so far. There's a huge mess to clean up and complaining about who made it won't fix anything now. But the Sounders clearly have to figure out how to ever keep this from happening again.
Fans you were class.. We were not. Unacceptable and embarrassing. We promise to get better in our prep for Sunday. Hope to c u there. #ebfg— Brad Evans (@brad_evans3) November 12, 2012
LA - Robbie Keane (Landon Donovan) 45+1'
LA - Mike Magee (Sean Franklin, Robbie Keane) 64'
LA - Robbie Keane 67'
Seattle Sounders FC - Michael Gspurning, Adam Johansson, Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Zach Scott, Mario Martinez, Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Alex Caskey (Steve Zakuani 73), Christian Tiffert (Andy Rose 73), Fredy Montero (Eddie Johnson 65).
Substitutes Not Used: Marcus Hahnemann, Servando Carrasco, David Estrada, Sammy Ochoa.
TOTAL SHOTS: 7; SHOTS ON GOAL: 4; FOULS: 7; OFFSIDE: 2; CORNER KICKS: 3; SAVES: 3.
LA Galaxy - Josh Saunders, Sean Franklin, Omar Gonzalez, Tommy Meyer, Todd Dunivant, Christian Wilhelmsson (Michael Stephens 77), Juninho (Marcelo Sarvas 46), David Beckham, Mike Magee, Landon Donovan (Jose Villarreal 84), Robbie Keane.
Substitutes Not Used: Brian Perk, Andew Boyens, Jack McBean, Bryan Gaul.
TOTAL SHOTS: 13; SHOTS ON GOAL: 7; FOULS: 12; OFFSIDE: 5; CORNER KICKS: 8; SAVES: 7.
SEA - Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (caution) 15'
Referee: Jair Marrufo
Referee's Assistants: Frank Anderson, Corey E. Rockwell
4th Official: Sorin Stoica
Time of Game: 1:53
Weather: Clear and 59 degrees
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial
Seattle Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid
Overall thoughts on the loss:
"It's a tough one to take, very similar to last year in Salt Lake, so it is disappointing we continued that. We have beaten them at home by four before so it is a matter of us doing that, but it is a difficult task. I thought our game plan going into tonight was good, we were one minute away from coming out of the first half 0-0. I thought we did a good job of possessing the ball and played alright. I think we fell asleep on the goal at the end of the first half, they took a free kick about 15-20 yards ahead of where the foul took place and we didn't react quickly enough and as a result they get a goal. But we went through a bad period in the second half were we lost our shape, lost our concentration, lost our focus, and they bang away two goals, and we are actually a little fortunate it wasn't three or four."
On what Seattle did well against LA:
"Overall I thought our possession was good, and we out possessed them and held onto the ball, we got some things going forward, but at the end of the day Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan were very dynamic and were a lot more dynamic than maybe our team was up front on the day, and obviously they created a lot of chances."
On how the goal right before the half changed the game:
"It didn't change the team talk, I told the team at halftime 1-0 is ok, it's not the worst thing in the world. 1-0 is ok, as long as we keep it that way, but for some reason, again, we feel like we have to make it 1-1. Early in the second half I thought we did a few things, we got close a couple times where we were just on the verge of breaking through, maybe the final pass wasn't of enough quality. We got exposed, it came from a cross from the right wing, the second goal came from a ball played in behind us on the right wing as well and obviously that's a side where they found a lot of joy."
On what opened up the scoreline:
"I think we possibly pushed a little bit when we shouldn't have pushed to try and get the goal back, because getting the goal back wasn't important, 1-0 was fine. They have some veteran guys, if you add up the three players I mentioned [Donovan, Keane, Beckham], they have more [international] caps times-20 than my whole team, maybe times-100, so from that standpoint, they are little more cagey, and for some reason maybe we didn't quite recognize that. The goal at the end of the half certainly changed the complexion a bit, but it is over now."
On the approach going into the second leg:
"The approach is we have to understand that we need to score three goals in 90 minutes. We don't have to score 3 goals in 5 minutes, we don't have to score 3 goals in 15 minutes and for sure we don't have to go hog wild scoring goals and giving up goals because then we have to score more goals. It is important that we come out with a good mentality and good work rate, a good effort on our part but also a good plan. Also the patience and the desire in the key moments."
Seattle Sounders FC Goalkeeper Michael Gspurning
On the first goal right at the end of the half:
"All three goals were a difficult moment for us. The first one, you know, everything worked out good for us in the first half, if we go as a draw into halftime the game is different. And then they got the second one, and five minutes later the third one. That is tough to work with. We can look forward to next week, we have 90 minutes left."
On organizing a back line against the type of players on the Galaxy:
"We did well. If the first goal doesn't happen, things would be different. It was very unlucky that we conceded the goal so quick before have time, it changed the game, and after the second goal you get the third one five minutes later, this is unacceptable. I am sure we don't deserve this result today, but we have this result now and there is just one direction we can play now, and that is forward, so we will look towards next week."
On heavy legs possibly playing a factor in this game:
"No, we don't want to use any excuses, everybody was prepared for this game 100 percent. LA had a couple of games also, so there are no excuses at this time of year."
Seattle Sounders FC Forward Eddie Johnson
On how he is doing physically:
"Physically I am doing fine, it is just one of those things were I picked up a nick the last time I was down here and played 90 minutes, and the turn around was too quick. They didn't want to put me out there at the start and maybe set myself back, but from a physical standpoint I felt good. Physically I felt fine, fitness I felt fine."
On the approach going into the next game:
"We know it is a must win game now. Any time we give up good chances to a team like this they are going to punish you. We should have gotten something out of the first half. That was the first time I've seen LA not play their best soccer, but good teams always find a way to get a goal. They managed to get a goal before half and goals change games. They had the momentum coming into the second half and they used it to their advantage. This team always responds well during adversity, we have responded well this season. We know it is going to be a good crowd next Sunday, we are going to have our fans behind us, and we are a good team at home. We know it's not going to be easy, going down 3-0 to the defending champions, its tough, but it's not impossible. We played them this year at our place and managed to score four goals, but this is the playoffs, it's different. We got to go back and watch film and go over some things and come out with a better mentality next week."
On his role tonight:
"It's a team sport. You know, if I am out there, or whoever is out there, it's the playoffs, it doesn't matter who is out there. Whoever is out there has to do a job, if your jersey is called upon it means the coach has trust in you, and believes in you. At the end of the day it takes 11 players to be successful on the field. My role was a different role this game, and I am looking forward to the game next week."
Seattle Sounders FC Forward Fredy Montero
On how hard it was to get a good look on goal tonight:
"We came in with a mentality to try and keep the ball and try to play high, the defender was playing behind me a little bit. I thought we were doing a really good job until they scored the first goal."
On not playing with Eddie Johnson:
"It is always good to play with him. He always tries to move forward. When I move I leave space for him and when he moves he leaves space for me, so it is always good. We were doing what the coach wanted and unfortunately we couldn't hold the ball or score."
On getting back to the success against the Galaxy from the regular season:
"Well, we have memory and we need to remind ourselves that we beat them 4-0 at home and we need to take what we did good and do it again. We need to find motivation in those games, we are going to play for the final in the conference so we need to be 5 percent more than we are doing right now. Every single game I try to do as much as I can, but at the end of the day soccer is played in the midfield, so we need to keep moving forward, we need to find a way to have a good result next game. We are not happy with this, but at the same time we need get over this and move forward and be focused on what we need to do for the next game."
LA Galaxy Head Coach Bruce Arena
Overall thoughts on the game:
"We played very well tonight against an excellent team and we're not foolish enough to believe that this thing is over. The game in Seattleon Sunday is going to be a real difficult game and we have to have our team ready to play."
On the performance of key players:
"Christian [Wilhelmsson] played very well tonight. I think the combination play with him and [David] Beckham and [Landon] Donovan and [Robbie] Keane and [Mike] Magee was excellent. They had a good night and they were dangerous. Obviously the goal at the end of the half was certainly huge and made a big difference. Seattle pressed to get a goal, open things up and gave some talented players a little bit of room to help us get the second and third goals."
On the form of Robbie Keane:
"I've said it a number of times. I think he's been simply outstanding since his return from the European Championships. One could argue he's been the best player in the league, unbelievably important to our team. He's been healthy and in just about every game I would think since he's returned. He's simply been outstanding. What can I say? He's been great."
On his team'' depth:
"It's been a progression over the season. I think it's well documented that we didn't start the season well but we started seeing progress end of May, June. Our young players have really improved. We think we have a lot of good depth and a lot of positions. In the Champions League we were able to use our second group in most of the games and ended up winning the group so it's a tribute to the way they've developed and the kind of group we have."
On the full week ahead of rest ahead of the second leg:
"It will be good. I think this is a difficult schedule for all the teams. I think it was challenging for D.C. United going down in Houston, I thinkSeattle would probably say the same. We've had, obviously to play in games. So it's been a lot of games in a short period of time and we've been fortunate enough to be able to survive to this point."
Thoughts on what the veterans bring to the team:
"I think if Keane, Beckham and Donovan for example are right, and even Omar [Gonzalez] in the case of Tommy Meyer, they're outstanding role models for those guys, and examples, when they're focused and their minds are right they're great examples for any of our young players to look at and learn from and help them develop. I would say they're vitally important to the development of our young players."
LA Galaxy Forward Landon Donovan
On the team's performance in the victory:
"It was a good start. I think if we're critical at all, we probably should have gotten a fourth goal. When you have a team down, you have to bury them. That being said, if you would have told us at the start of the night, do you want 3-0 at the end, we would have taken it. But this is far from over. I, myself, have been part of bigger comebacks than this so we've got a long way to go still."
On the injury that forced him out of the game:
"I felt my hamstring tighten up a little bit, so we'll see, go in tomorrow and look at it."
On next Sunday's second leg in Seattle:
"Next week they'll have Eddie [Johnson] from the start, my guess is they'll have Rosales from the start and they're a much different team at home than they are on the road. They beat us 4-0 earlier in the year and there's no reason why they can't do that again so we've got to be prepared."
On Robbie Keane's goal just before halftime:
"That was huge. We didn't play all too well in the first half, created a couple chances but we weren't all that dangerous, so to break through right before [halftime] I think broke their back a little bit and then our second half was terrific."
On the goal scoring of Keane and Mike Magee:
"Big players step up in big games and we have a number of those and we need those two to keep going. As they go, so goes our team."
On having a week off between games:
"It's going to be a little weird not to play in three days. We're going to take a couple of days off to rest, we need it. But then it's back to work because we've got a big one Sunday."
LA Galaxy Forward Robbie Keane
On the importance of the goal right before halftime:
"It was important that we kept our patience and that certainly was the case. We knew that was going to be difficult, they were going to defend well and hey did that. I think the goal just before halftime was a big boost for us and obviously killed them a little."
On the win and next week's second leg:
"We can't obviously get too carried away with ourselves. We got a good win tonight, but the job's only half done. So if the lads think for one second now this is over, they may think again, because as we know in football it's a funny old game and anything can happen. We'll enjoy tonight, enjoy the win, but as soon as we're back on the training pitch, the focus is on next Sunday."
On the mindset ahead of the second leg::
"I think it's up to the lads, the senior players who have a lot more experience than the other guys to make sure that they know that this is by no means over."
On tapping home the third goal which Christian Wilhelmsson had sent toward the goalline:
"My coaches when I was a kid always said just make sure the ball hits the back of the net. I wasn't too sure who was around me so I was just making sure, because he cleared a few off the line tonight so I wasn't taking any chances. It doesn't really matter who scored as long as we win the game."
LA Galaxy Midfielder Mike Magee
On the key to the team's combination play:
"Landon and Robbie. Landon and Robbie were phenomenal. And any time they play together they are so dangerous. It makes it so much easier when every ball they try to lump forward, and every cross they hit, it gets eaten by our defense and our goalie, it makes it so much easier when they are not possessing it in our defensive third."
On if the team can sit back with a 3-0 lead:
"We can't sit back. This is a team that if we go there and we think 3-0 is going to be good enough I think we will be proven that it won't be good enough. "
On what he saw on his goal:
"As soon as I saw Robbie pick his head up and I knew he was going to play Sean in behind, I took off early. I knew with Sean's speed that if I just took off and got there then I'd have a tap-in, which is what happened. The weight of the ball Sean put on it was everything. You see a lot of guys when they get in that position they try to blast it across or sometimes they're over thinking it and they play a little bumpy ball; he gave me a lay-up."
LA Galaxy Midfielder David Beckham
On the win and looking forward to next week's match in Seattle:
"We always create chances, so it was great that we put them away, but this tie is far from over. Seattle's always been a tough place to go and win games and play at. Their fans will be right behind them, but we have obviously put ourselves in a good position. But we know that it's far from over."
On what kind of approach they need to take into the second leg:
"The same approach that we took for this game. We're not going to sit on the lead that we have. It's important that we still play our soccer and play it like we can. But obviously, we're in a very good position. We don't want to concede too quickly in the game, hopefully not at all. It's going to be a tough one."
On whether they felt the game opening up in the second half:
"I think that always happens when you're chasing the game and you're down a goal or two. The game opens up, the other team has to take a few more chances and luckily for us it opened up. We could have one or two more than we actually got, but we'd have taken 3-0 at the start of the game."
On having a week off between games:
"It's great. We've played about 50 games in the last two weeks, that's how it feels. It's nice obviously to get a week in between each game because you can recover from any little niggles or injuries that you've picked up in these latest games. But sometimes you want it to come a bit quicker."