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No David Beckham. No Robbie Keane. No Todd Dunivant. No Josh Saunders. Two more starters on the bench. Only two first-team players in their favored spots.
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena sure did rotate his lineup for Wednesday night's Major League Soccer showdown in Seattle, and it showed. L.A. never really challenged the Sounders in a 2-0 defeat, struggling to get a grip on CenturyLink Field's artificial surface and paying a heavy price for some rather passive defending.
Eddie Johnson scored on a header just before halftime and Fredy Montero sent a 35-yard riser into the upper-left corner at the start of the second half as Seattle (5-1-1) beat the Galaxy for the first time at home in MLS play before a full house of 39,002, second-best in the league this year.
“Give Seattle credit. In a span of about eight minutes, we lost the game,” Arena told media in Seattle after the game. “We would have liked to go into halftime even and put a little pressure on them after the half, but we weren’t able to do it. ... We technically weren't good. Our guys struggled on the turf to get any kind of crosses in front of the goal. We weren't able to get any shots on the fame. It results in us not really being able to test their goalkeeper.”
The Galaxy (3-4-1), who didn't drop their fourth game last year until October, were playing the second of a three-games-in-eight-days set, and Arena -- mindful of the hated turf -- left home over-30s Beckham, Keane and Dunivant in advance of Saturday's game at Home Depot Center against New York. Saunders is missing for “personal reasons,” reportedly a stint in MLS's substance abuse treatment program.
Mike Magee and Edson Buddle started on the bench, Sean Franklin moved into midfield, Marcelo Sarvas took Beckham's spot, and Arena gave rookie Bryan Gaul his MLS debut at left back, with right back Bryan Jordan and striker Adam Cristman making their first starts of the year. Bill Gaudette was back in the nets with another superb showing.
“I think it's a difficult week with the travel and playing on this surface,” Arena said. “We wanted to keep some players fresh for the game on Saturday. That’s the decision I made. We didn’t think we were going to be able to play eleven players in three games, and we had to rotate some players. It made sense to me to have those players available on Saturday.”
Gaul delivered one very nice ball into Seattle's box but struggled positionally and was targeted on the Sounders' best chances before the goals. Mauro Rosales, who ran the attack, got the rookie to bite on a feint and sent in a cross for Montero that required a foot save from Gaudette in the 10th minute. Gaudette had to make back-to-back saves in the 23rd -- diving to stop Johnson and getting his leg to Montero's close-range rebound -- after Gaul was beaten on the right flank.
Jordan was iffy with the ball on the other side, and A.J. DeLaGarza's and David Junior Lopes' failures to adequately challenge Johnson for Rosales' cross enabled the Sounders to take a 40th-minute lead.
Montero's blast, after a turnover by Donovan in Sounders territory, followed a run through vast open space as nobody in a Galaxy jersey -- Sarvas and Gaul the primary candidates -- stepped up to pressure the forward. It was his first goal of the season and, noted Seattle coach Sigi Schmid “probably a Goal of the Week winner.”
“When you have an opportunity to shoot at that distance, you just try, you know?” said Montero, who called the goal “special.” “Turns out that ball went into the net.”
That was it, really. The Galaxy were much better the rest of the way, with more possession and just as many chances, the best a shot wide from 22 yards by Magee in the 63rd minute. Magee and Buddle added to the mix off the bench, and Donovan got his first look up top since the MLS Cup victory when Magee came on in the 58th minute. But L.A. put just one shot on target, a sharp blast by Donovan outside the box right at goalkeeper Bryan Meredith in the 62nd minute.
Gaudette, who could turn his stint as starter into the No. 1 job, was excellent. He had little chance on either goal -- “He can't be at fault on anything here tonight,” Arena said on the Galaxy's broadcast -- and made four big saves, plus two more on plays that were flagged offside.
“You try to keep the ball out of the net,” Gaudette said on the broadcast. “I'm disappointed with the result. Obviously, getting two by me is nothing I'm looking for, just trying to help my boys out. They're fighting like crazy in front of me, so I'm doing everything I can back there.”
WORTH NOTING: Might have Seattle's turf played a role, beyond the obvious one, in the decision to leave Beckham home? Great Britain Olympic coach Stuart Pearce last week said he'd scout the Englishman in Seattle as he determines his three over-23 players for the London Games. Beckham is likelier to show better on the vast grass expanses at Home Depot Center than on the plastic stuff in Seattle. ... Wednesday was Beckham's 37th birthday. He celebrated by taking in Tuesday night's Lakers playoff game with his wife, Victoria. ... Schmid was asked if Arena's decision to keep some big names at home was offensive to the Sounders, and whether it takes anything away from the victory. “I think it’s tougher to play against a group like [this one],” he said. “You know how you’re going to play against Beckham -- you’re up for that, you’re prepared for that. You know how you’re going to play against Keane. But our guys don’t know a Brian Gaul, they don’t know how to play against him. They don’t know what Franklin is going to look like in midfield, Cristman hasn’t played much. Bruce is going to play what he thinks is the best team and the team that he thinks is going to give them a chance to win this game.” ...
MLS pool goalkeeper Brian Rowe, a UCLA All-American drafted in January by Chivas USA, was Gaudette's backup. Brian Perk, who was in the 18 on Saturday, is just returning from sports hernia surgery. ... Gaul had made one previous 18-man roster for L.A., for the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg in Toronto. ... Meredith made his MLS debut, coming on at halftime for Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning, who departed with a hip injury. ... Galaxy television play-by-play man Mark Rogondino alluded to the reports on Saunders' absence, but the gist of the reports was never mentioned.
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER
CenturyLink Field (Seattle)
Seattle Sounders 2, Galaxy 0
S -- Eddie Johnson (Mauro Rosales) 40
S -- Fredy Montero (Osvaldo Alonso) 48
Seattle Sounders: Michael Gspurning (Bryan Meredith, 46); Zach Scott, Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Leo Gonzalez; Mauro Rosales (Marc Burch, 74), Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, David Estrada; Eddie Johnson (Alex Caskey, 81), Fredy Montero. Unused subs: Adam Johansson, Sammy Ochoa, Andy Rose, Christian Sivebaek.
Galaxy: Bill Gaudette; Bryan Jordan (Pat Noonan, 71), A.J. DeLaGarza, David Junior Lopes, Bryan Gaul; Sean Franklin, Juninho, Marcelo Sarvas, Landon Donovan; Adam Cristman (Edson Buddle, 53), Chad Barrett (Mike Magee, 58). Unused subs: Tommy Meyer, Kyle Nakazawa, Brian Rowe, Michael Stephens.
Yellow card: Sarvas 34.
Referee: Hilario Grajeda. Att.: 39,002.
Records: Seattle 5-1-1, 16 points; Galaxy 3-4-1, 10 points.