LA Galaxy highlighted its MLS Cup credentials by rampaging to a 3-0 victory at Seattle on Monday night.
This veteran group sputtered through the early stages of the campaign, but the display on this evening showed the Galaxy in full flight. Gyasi Zardes hinted at the emphatic result to come when he swept home Landon Donovan’s pullback after just eight minutes. Donovan grabbed the second 10 minutes later when he reacted quickly to turn home a rebound from Marcelo Sarvas’ initial attempt. Stefan Ishizaki completed the stunning rout when he snatched the third nine minutes before the interval.
Seattle managed to stem the tide in the second half as the Galaxy professionally managed the game, but the loss of defensive fulcrum Chad Marshall — ruled out with back spasms in the wake of a car accident on Saturday — disrupted Sounders FC’s shape and invited the Galaxy to press the initiative at the outset. The wholesale demise will leave the Supporters’ Shield chasers with questions to answer after a display well below the lofty standards set forth during this campaign.
The visitors attacked the game with vigor and exposed Sounders FC’s lack of cohesiveness and communication without Marshall to direct traffic. Bruce Arena instructed his players to apply pressure consistently to unsettle Seattle and watched Sounders FC essentially crumble during the first half.
Sarvas benefited from the time and space allotted between the lines to create the first inside the opening 10 minutes. His clever diagonal ball through the square back line permitted the poorly tracked Donovan to dash in behind. Donovan had enough time and space to drop a tidy ball for the onrushing Zardes to slot home his seventh goal of the campaign.
Instead of heeding the early warning and locating safe ground, Seattle instead struggled to find its footing against a Galaxy side willing to pursue the game in earnest. Those efforts — plus Seattle’s inability to close down space properly in midfield or reduce the cushion conceded to Donovan and Robbie Keane as they floated through the attacking half — eventually permitted the Galaxy to sort out the result before the halftime break.
Donovan imposed his presence on the game yet again by grabbing the second after just 16 minutes. Sarvas once again benefited a surprising lack of closing in front of the back four. His effort toward the far post prompted a good save from Stefan Frei, but the inviting rebound allowed Donovan to rely on his instincts and tap home the second.
Sarvas once again played a critical role in third when he dispossessed Gonzalo Pineda at the halfway line and started yet another swift break. Donovan collected the turnover and played into Sarvas’ run through middle. Sarvas funneled the play out to the right with a delicate ball. Ishizaki then rounded off the move with a first-time finish past the stranded Frei after 36 minutes.
Zardes spurned a glorious chance to extend the lead when he fired into the prone Frei shortly before the break. The two teams came together as Seattle looked for any possible sign of life prior to the interval, but those modest disagreements hardly papered over the poor Sounders FC performance during the first 45 minutes.
Seattle manager Sigi Schmid inserted Chad Barrett for Lamar Neagle at halftime and tried to provoke a significant response from his side. The home team improved when play resumed, but the modest uptick did not disrupt the course of the proceedings or prevent the Galaxy from sauntering to the deserved points waiting at the final whistle.
The result offered great value for a Galaxy side impeccably prepared to take advantage of Sounders FC’s frailty on the night. This display supplies a warning from the Galaxy to rest of the Western Conference about its intent for the second half of the campaign, while Sounders FC must use its failings on the night to ensure its quest for the Supporters’ Shield stays firmly on track in the coming weeks.