Seattle claimed its first MLS Supporters’ Shield with a gritty 2-0 victory over LA Galaxy at CenturyLink Field.
Marco Pappa made the difference for a second consecutive match as his late double decided an otherwise disappointing affair between the top two sides in MLS. Pappa collected an Obafemi Martins diagonal and slotted home the winner five minutes from the end. He added his second goal deep in second-half stoppage time by dispossessing Jaime Penedo and tucking into an empty net to guarantee the victory.
Pappa’s intervention in the late stages tipped the scales on a day when Sounders FC needed just a draw to claim the Shield and secure homefield advantage through the playoffs. The final scoreline flattered a Seattle side without a shot on goal until Pappa’s opener, but the outcome punished the Galaxy for failing to translate its possession into end product without the injured Robbie Keane.
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Seattle will check carefully on the health of defensive linchpin Chad Marshall after he sustained an apparent head injury in the late stages, but the result will take precedence as Sounders FC kept its hopes of a treble on course. Seattle will now face the winner of a Knockout Round game in the Western Conference semifinals, while the second-seeded Galaxy will play either FC Dallas or Real Salt Lake.
The pulsating second half in the 2-2 draw between the two sides in Carson, Calif. promised plenty as this match beckoned, but the combination of persistent fouling and wastefulness in possession from the home side led to a disjointed and ultimately disappointing opening stanza.
Chances were few and far between with Seattle incapable of retaining the ball and the Galaxy struggling to produce the final pass despite its territorial superiority. Stefan Ishizaki nearly played Landon Donovan through with a delicate ball over the top, but Stefan Frei rushed off his line to thwart the attempt.
Most of the fare descended into scrappy fouls and wayward work on the ball. The visitors desperately missed Keane – unexpectedly ruled out shortly before kickoff — as they tried to find a way through the line, while Sounders FC flailed around in their attempts to establish any semblance of cadence.
Marcelo Sarvas produced perhaps the best chance in the scrappy first half with his effort from distance just before the break. Frei parried the attempt over the bar to ensure the teams went into the interval on level terms.
The proceedings did not improve much after the interval with Seattle still unable to cobble together extended sequences on the ball or present any threat to Jaime Penedo. Gyasi Zardes punctuated the Galaxy’s efforts with a low effort just wide of the far post after the hour.
Sarvas and Gonzalo Pineda sparked the game to some modicum of life by inciting a scrum in the final 20 minutes. Pineda took offense to a foul by Sarvas and Leonardo on Dempsey and expressed his concerns to the Brazilian midfielder. The two men sparked a modest and largely ineffectual fracas to release some of the tension from the affair and received yellow cards from referee Mark Geiger for their roles in it.
Seattle coach Sigi Schmid chucked Pappa into the fray in the late stages and watched the Guatemalan midfielder alter the game for a second consecutive week. Pappa immediately sparked increased energy and proficiency from the previously futile home side, but it took until five minutes from the end for Seattle to produce the goal required to secure the Supporters’ Shield.
The decisive move stemmed from an intelligent decision by Seattle to take a free kick quickly. Dempsey and Martins combined to catch the Galaxy unaware and mine the space presented with a menace heretofore unseen on the evening. Martins played a diagonal ball through the line into Pappa’s run on the left side of the penalty area. Pappa kept his composure and slotted home to give Sounders FC the advantage with his side’s first shot on goal.
Pappa provided a gloss to the afternoon by stripping Penedo as he dithered in possession outside his own penalty area in the late stages. His delicate, scooped finish felt out of place in this largely dire match, but it sparked wild celebrations at CenturyLink Field nevertheless as Seattle clinched its first Supporters’ Shield with its late outburst.