SEATTLE, Wa. -- Whenever it's Seattle-Los Angeles, you know it will be a fantastic show of skill and competition in a tight affair.
It just usually isn't this tight.
In what was an absolute classic Wednesday night at CenturyLink Field, the Seattle Sounders eked out a resounding 3-2 win over Western Conference foes the Los Angeles Galaxy to eliminate Bruce Arena's side and advance to the second stage of the 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Both Sides Pour On The Early Goals
Clint Dempsey initiated the chaos just five minutes in, capitalizing on keeper Donovan Ricketts' defensive mistake of coming too far out of his crease to slam the ball straight on into the net to put the Sounders up 1-0 in a flash.
That lead would disappear in a flash as well, thanks to Sebastian Lletget. Galaxy's Gyasi Zardes took a touch past a much too stiff Seattle back line, guiding the ball right to Lletget's right foot. The 23 year-old smashed it into the bottom-left section of the goal from 10 yards out and past Stefan Frei to equalize just a minute after the Sounders had taken the lead.
But the earlier hectic scoring did not stop there. In the 12th minute, Andreas Ivanschitz whipped in a very deep free kick from the right-center portion of the pitch, and his cross met the sliding attempt of Nelson Haedo Valdez crashing into Ricketts' eight-yard box. Valdez's volley traveled its way right into the net to give Seattle the 2-1 advantage.
Zardes leveled it right back up ten minutes later. After Seattle deflected and denied multiple Los Angeles shot attempts bordering the penalty area, Juninho fed the United States international, who took one touch before locking on to a dead-on spot in the top corner near-post. Zardes shot right past the diving attempt of Frei to make it 2-2.
Seattle Has One Called Back
Ivanschitz nearly took another first-half Seattle lead in the 23rd minute. A lobbed through-ball was sent in to Clint Dempsey, who appeared offside and drew an unenthusiastic flag from the assistant referee. Referee Jair Marrufo said play on after Dempsey headed the ball loose, and so Ivanschitz took it in stride and dashed goalwards, where he fired it off the right post and into the goal.
Marrufo pointed to the center circle to signal a legal goal, but Los Angeles ran straight to the assistant referee and the goal was eventually waved off for Ivanschitz.
By the end of the first 45, it was pouring at CenturyLink, the Sounders fans were rowdy as ever, and the game? It was still level at 2-2.
Friberg, Sounders Claim Second-Half Victory
The Sounders immediately burst into the second-half with some close chances, starting with a saved Dempsey header in the 49th minute and a miss over the crossbar by Obafemi Martins one minute later.
Erik Friberg outstandingly broke the silence in the 73rd for Seattle. The Swedish holding midfielder surged to his left after a cross inside had been deflected out of the main skirmish in the box. Friberg reached the ball and one-shot it like a laser straight past the out-of-sorts Ricketts and into the right side of the goal to hand the Sounders a phenomenal 3-2 lead.
Stefan Frei made a superlative save on a Zardes shot in the 82nd to preserve his club's lead, diving to make a beautiful left-handed parry and deflect the ball out of danger.
Seattle held on from that point, securing a 3-2 victory and their place into the second round of the 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs. However, captain Brad Evans celebrated gingerly after sustaining a moderate leg injury in the match's final few minutes.
It's Game Over For LA; Game On For Seattle
The Galaxy are officially eliminated from the 2015 MLS Cup race after winning the title in 2014, when they defeated Seattle in the conference final.
"This is just the beginning of our journey. This isn't the end," said Sounders coach Sigi Schmid, who despite being a top coach in the league could be out of a job if he doesn't win a championship in 2015. "We want to keep the journey going."
Osvaldo Alonso and Marco Pappa both sat out for the Sounders on Wednesday night, but the two will certainly be used if ready by gametime next week against either FC Dallas or Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
The wild result in the Sounders' favor moves them back into the certain conversation of elite teams in Major League Soccer after their mid-season dip in June and July. With almost a completely healthy team, the possibilities are endless for the 2015 Seattle Sounders.