In a match that probably aged many Seattle fans by at least a few weeks, the Sounders emerged victorious from a playoff matchup with LA Galaxy for the first time. Coach Sigi Schmid and the players confirm in their quotes what was evident on the field: This game required tactical decisions on the fly, and some players had to make sacrifices to give their squad the best chance at victory.
It always seemed likely that the Sounders would need to score more than one or two goals to best a very good Galaxy offense, and that's exactly what they did. Clint Dempsey pounced on a mistake, Nelson Valdez jabbed home a perfect ball, Friberg did Friberg things, and Andreas Ivanschitz even scored an extra beauty for good measure that was, of course, called back.
Battered and bruised, the Sounders can only watch tonight to learn their next opponent and keep pushing through the playoffs with whoever is healthy. But Seattle have finally eliminated their most powerful rival in the postseason, and it feels good.
Seattle Sounders FC 3 - LA Galaxy 2
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Venue: Xbox Pitch at CenturyLink Field
Referee: Jair Marrufo
Assistants: Corey Rockwell, Frank Anderson
Fourth Official: Juan Guzman
Weather: Cloudy and 55 degrees
SEA - Clint Dempsey 5'
LA - Sebastian Lletget (Gyasi Zardes, Giovani dos Santos) 6'
SEA - Nelson Valdez (Andreas Ivanschitz) 12'
LA - Gyasi Zardes (Juninho) 22'
SEA - Erik Friberg 73'
LA - Omar Gonzalez (caution) 44'
LA -Baggio Husidic (caution) 77'
SEA - Stefan Frei (caution) 90'+3'
LINEUPS & STATS
Seattle Sounders FC - Stefan Frei; Tyrone Mears, Brad Evans - captain, Chad Marshall, Leo Gonzalez (Zach Scott 36'); Nelson Valdez (Chad Barrett 75'), Andy Rose, Erik Friberg, Andreas Ivanschitz (Cristian Roldan 88'); Clint Dempsey
Substitutes not used: Troy Perkins, Oniel Fisher, Lamar Neagle, Gonzalo Pineda
Total shots: 9 (Valdez/Dempsey, 3)
Shots on goal: 5 (Dempsey, 2)
Fouls: 9 (Ivanschitz, 3)
Offside: 3 (Dempsey, 2)
Corner-kicks: 5 (Ivanschitz, 5)
Saves: 3 (Frei, 3)
LA Galaxy - Donovan Ricketts; AJ DeLaGarza (Alan Gordan 83'), Omar Gonzalez, Leonardo, Robbie Rogers; Gyasi Zardes, Juninho, Steven Gerrard, Sebastian Lletget (Baggio Husidic 76'); Robbie Keane - captain, Giovani dos Santos
Substitutes not used: Brian Rowe, Edson Buddle, Dan Gargan, David Romney, Mike Vayryen
Total shots: 15 (Lletget, 4)
Shots on goal: 5 (Zardes, 2)
Fouls: 10 (Leonardo, 3)
Offside: 5 (Keane, 3)
Corner-kicks: 6 (dos Santos, 6)
Saves: 2 (Ricketts, 2)
SOUNDERS FC HEAD COACH SIGI SCHMID
"Basically, we haven't done anything easy all year, so there's no reason for you guys to suspect that tonight would be easy. I thought we showed a lot of character [when] we went up twice and they came back to equalize twice on us. I thought in the beginning of the second half we started to take it to them...We were a bit unlucky, maybe, to find a third goal. When you look at shot stats sometimes those are misleading. You look at shots, but for us a lot of opportunities were crosses on the doorstep that they are clearing off the line or clearing before one of our guys get to it, so it doesn't count as a shot on a goal, but those are dangerous chances. A lot of guys sacrificed tonight doing different things. [Brad] Evans was the one who came over and said, ‘I will move to left back' to bring Zach [Scott] into the middle. [Clint] Dempsey is the one who said, ‘Hey, I will play on the outside in the midfield' and [then we could] push [Nelson] Valdez up front, so we could get a few more minutes out of him. A lot of guys gave themselves up a few more minutes tonight, and I think that shows the character of this team, so I am very, very proud of those guys."
On the gameplan out of the midfield:
"We just wanted them to step up a little more. We wanted to get it tighter to [Steven] Gerrard, we felt [Andy] Rose was off of him a little too much - wanted to make sure that [Erik] Friberg got in front of him a little bit more, so that we close that gap and connect it to our front line. We wanted to make sure we got at them in the wide channels, and obviously Evans did a good job attacking on the left-hand side, and then getting forward from there...I thought we had [Tyrone] Mears more involved in the game offensively, and as we attacked more I think that helped us."
On Osvaldo Alonso's status:
"We don't know. With Ozzie, we are treating it day-to-day as we move forward. The reason why we went with Rose is that he is physically a better matchup for Gerrard. He is also a guy who hits pretty good long balls when he is playing deeper - there were a few balls that he hit where he opened the game up...His ability to close things down helped us. It certainly was a tough decision because he hadn't had a start in a while, but sometimes you roll the dice - sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don't."
On defeating LA in the playoffs:
"It definitely feels special because this is the first time we have advanced past them...In the last two playoff games that we have played them, we have beaten them twice here at home. We are a pretty good team in one-off games - our Open Cup history shows that, so I think when you look at our Open Cup finals, the game against Colorado two years ago and this game - in do-or-die games I think we are 6-1, which is a good record to have, and the one was on penalty kicks that we lost. It definitely feels good. We talked before the game, ‘Hey we started something last Sunday, we want to continue it today, we want to carry it into next Sunday.' I think these guys have a lot of heart and desire, and I think that carries you a long way."
On if Alonso's absence led to a more wild game:
"Ozzie helps us a little bit defensively, but the way the Galaxy play is that they are a counter-attacking team - the strength of the team is in their attack, and maybe the weaker part of their team is in their defense. In all of the years that I have seen Bruce Arena teams, it's always a situation where I know we are going to get chances, but I also know that they are going to get chances because it's just the way the game goes. If you look at our Galaxy games this year, the one we tied at home we were getting good chances. In the second half, we were all over them...That's just the nature of the games - it looks a little more chaotic. Certainly Ozzie's defensive presence helps us in there because he is a quality player, but I think Rose did a good job for us tonight. He opened the game for us, which is really important, as well."
On playing through adversity:
"We went through a pretty good ordeal in the summer. I think a lot of the guys got bloodied in that period of time...So, I think what they showed tonight - which I know they have - is an ability to sacrifice for each other. Dempsey showed that tonight, Evans showed that tonight, Valdez probably shouldn't have played as many minutes as he did, but he says ‘I am going to give you everything for as long as I can.' They showed that part of it. When you have the ability to bring someone off the bench like [Cristian] Roldan, who is a 20-year-old rookie, and bring him in when we are trying to kill the game, and he even has to drop to left back, because of the experiences he had in the summer he is ready for that. It was good."
SOUNDERS FC GOALKEEPER STEFAN FREI
On Brad Evans playing left back:
"No he hasn't [played left back this season], but he still is a smart player. He has played at right back, he's played right mid, he's played centerback. It's because he is soccer smart. It takes a bit of adjustment, but that's one of his great qualities. I wasn't getting worried at all. It isn't his preferred side, but he brings that energy going forward, but also defensively. We brought Zach [Scott] in at the middle left and I wasn't worried about him either so it was a smooth transition for me."
On the time of year for Sounders:
"Guys are putting in good shifts and it's great when you see a striker see a midfielder who is running out of gas then goes back and helps out. That's huge for us. We need all 11 guys to be pulling great shifts."
On beating Galaxy in the playoffs:
"All week we said if you want to go all the way, you have to beat tough opponents. It was good that we faced them early because it helps your confidence. It was a bit of a monkey that sat on our back, but now he's off our back, it's great. Everyone's really really happy with the effort we put in tonight and obviously getting the result against a tough LA team was awesome."
SOUNDERS FC DEFENDER BRAD EVANS
On beating the Galaxy at home:
"Obviously no matter who it is it's a good feeling. We had one knockout game against Colorado and pulled off a big win against them, so the toughest road lies ahead. But it's a good feeling and I'm happy for the guys."
On momentum going into the rest of playoffs:
"It's all about momentum at this time. We'll have different guys filling in as it's a short week and guys will be filling different roles, but at this point you put your head down and you do what's asked of you. There's no second-guessing. If you don't get a good result this weekend, you find yourself in a tough position away from home so you can't save yourself at this time. Leave it all on the line and do what's best for the team."
On where this win ranks for him:
"Obviously it's important, but ranking it is pretty tough. We're happy to advance and be in the Conference Semifinals and that's pretty important at this time. When you beat that team, it's a good feeling because they have such quality players, they have good coaching. If not the best, they are historically one of the best in MLS so that always gives you confidence moving forward, but we also have to realize we face a well-rested team whoever it is this weekend."
SOUNDERS FC MIDFIELDER ERIK FRIBERG
On having scored a goal like that in his career:
"It was a long time ago, but this was at the right time so that was good."
To have his first goal as a Sounder as the game-winner:
"I had one in Champion's league, but in MLS it was a big goal. It was perfect. It is always fun to score a goal, but the important thing is that we won the game. They cleared it and I was at the top of the box so I just hit it. It felt pretty good."
On emotions of the game:
"It was a crazy first 30 minutes. There were chances for both teams all the time. We had the first goal with Clint which was good, and I think we didn't play that good in the first half. We talked about pressing higher in the second half and I think we kept the ball better in the second half, too. I think we played a lot better the second half than in the first half. Again, the important thing is that we won the game and now we continue and hopefully we can play a good game on Sunday too."
LA GALAXY HEAD COACH BRUCE ARENA
On the match:
"I think Christmas came early in Seattle. We absolutely gift wrapped that game for them tonight. Our play in front of our goal defensively was atrocious. We just gift wrapped those three goals. Give them credit - they jumped on the mistakes, but we were shockingly poor. The officiating didn't help. We have a second goal -- maybe the best tackle of the night and he calls it a foul and it ends up in the back of the net. But that's our fault - we still need to defend better. But we gift wrapped the game. We played real well at times. It's a game we should have won."
On such an experienced group in the back making those mistakes:
"Not good. Shocking mistakes. There were a lot of mistakes back there, no question about it."
On how the forwards played:
"We played pretty well. We should have won this game tonight. We literally gift wrapped the game. If you're going to give away goals like that, you don't deserve to win, that's for sure."
On if he's surprised their season ended so quickly:
"Yeah. For us to concede a goal right at the start of the game, come back and get a goal and give away another one, which wasn't helped by officiating, but we still are at fault for that. And then the third goal - we can certainly do better there. You're giving a home team goals. That's not the way to play on the road. We should've come out in the second half - you knew they'd come at us a little bit - to get ourselves into the game and try to find a third goal or get us into extra time. To concede the three goals that we conceded is absolutely poor."
On the second Seattle goal being a clearance issue or a keeper call:
"Both. And the referee doesn't call a foul. Ridiculous call. That wasn't a foul. That was a clean tackle all the way. We have to do better. A lot of mistakes."
On if this is a disappointing end to their season:
"Of course it's disappointing. You think we're happy about it? But we have no one to look at but ourselves. As I said, I think we gift wrapped a nice game for Seattle here tonight."
On any potential changes going forward:
"Yeah, like every year, there are going to be changes. It's not any different from one year to the next."
LA GALAXY MIDFIELDER STEVEN GERRARD
On losing on the road to Seattle:
"I don't think I would bring our qualities or our character into question. We always give everything we've got and sometimes it's not enough. I think if you analyze the whole season we were brilliant up until three or four weeks ago and all of the sudden we have been conceding sloppy goals and that certainly got carried into tonight. That's the disappointing thing looking at the season as a whole and conceding too many over the last few weeks but you can never question the lads' commitment or desire because I see it on a daily basis."
On ending the season earlier than expected:
"If you don't win trophies at the end of a season, it's always disappointing. You have to dose yourself down and get ready to go again. Before you know it the season will be starting again. Credit to Seattle, they won the game tonight in a one-off game, but for those it just seems like we have to score three or four goals for the lads to win games and that's what we have to analyze over the winter."
On conceding the second goal and miscommunication with goalkeeper Ricketts:
"I think we both hesitated. I was waiting for him to come and take it and he's probably been waiting for me to clear it. That's where the confusion's come. I felt like [Valdez] was offside when the ball was delivered, I'll have to have a look at it again, but I think we'll both take responsibility for that. I think in general play we are conceding too many goals off of set-pieces into the box. It feels like we have to score three or four goals to win games at the moment and that's not how we can be. We have to improve on that."
On Friberg's goal:
"We had chances to clear the ball but I'm not sure the actual details of the goal, I'll have to have a look at that. From being fairly up the field, it seemed like we had two or three opportunities to clear it out, either out of the game or into their half. It was a couple sloppy clearances and we were punished for it."
LA GALAXY FORWARD ROBBIE KEANE
On losing to Seattle:
"Listen, it's very Irish to never point fingers, but as a group of players you know we have to take responsibility for ourselves. When you concede three goals away from home and you have to score two, it's always difficult to win the game. Obviously everyone is disappointed. We knew we could come here and win the game and when you look at the first-half performance, certainly we gave them a goal at the start then got ourselves back in the game. I think we dominated the game in the second-half, then you give them another goal. We got another goal back and were in control again. I thought that was one of the best first halves we have played but it means nothing if you don't win the game. It's disappointing when you're the champions and you know what it feels like to lift that trophy, and now for it to be taken away from you, it's difficult to take. We can sit here all day and say "ifs" and "buts" but we just weren't good enough, certainly in the last five or six weeks. That's it. Full credit to the players who gave everything they good tonight. The effort was there, there's no question about that."
On communication problems in defense:
"It happens doesn't it? It happens all the time in football, no matter what teams you watch. We are disappointed as a group of players to concede three goals away from home. When you score two away from home, you usually think that's enough to win the game, but to concede three was difficult to take and it costs us the game."
On difference between halves:
"In the first half, confidence was very high. When you go a goal behind and come back, then concede and come back again, you come into half thinking you have a chance to win. I don't know what happened with the last goal, but it was a good strike by the lad. Listen, we're out. All we have to do is take responsibility and we shall. Best of luck going forward."
LA GALAXY FORWARD GYASI ZARDES
On losing to Seattle after coming back twice:
"It is very disappointing losing against Seattle. My opinion is I hate losing to Seattle. We conceded two goals in the first 15 minutes and worked hard and got ourselves back into the game and they got another goal. It was very unlucky on our end. You have to give credit where it's due and tonight, they scored more goals than us."
On end-of-season form:
"This year it was the same story - it was tough to get the road win. We tried to overcome it throughout the year, but you notice once we play away we didn't get the results we wanted. Now we prepare for next season."
On mood after giving up goals:
"When those goals went in, we had faith we were going to get a goal back. We are a better team than Seattle. That's my personal opinion. I felt like we had numerous opportunities and a couple offside calls I would counter with the sideline ref. I still feel like if we buried our chances, we come out on top."