Los Angeles Soccer: Seattle Sounders
CARSON, Calif. -- Robbie Keane couldn't help himself.
Christian Wilhelmsson's 67th-minute rebound touch off a Landon Donovan shot appeared to be headed -- a bit slowly, albeit -- for the back of the net in Sunday's Western Conference Finals leadoff leg between the Los Angeles Galaxy and Seattle Sounders.
But Keane, the productive Irish striker, just had to jump in and slam the ball behind Seattle keeper Michael Gspurning for the Galaxy's third and final goal in their 3-0 win.
"He was too slow, eh?" Keane joked afterward of Wilhelmsson.
The teams will play again next Sunday in the return leg in Seattle, with the Sounders now needing to outscore the Galaxy by four goals to advance to the MLS Cup in the aggregate-goal playoff system.
Keane has played inspired soccer in this 2012 postseason, with four goals in four matches thus far. The final one Sunday was a bit of a steal from a teammate, but Keane didn't mind. He was just following the words of his youth coaches, he said, and making sure the ball hit the back of the net as quickly as possible.
"This was on its way in, but it's OK," laughed Wilhelmsson, a Swedish international. "He's a striker. That's how they should think. It's better to be there one time too much than one time too little."
The Galaxy's first goal on Sunday, which coach Bruce Arena called "probably the difference in the game," came in the lone minute of extra time of a tightly played first half.
Wilhelmsson deftly pretended to touch Sean Franklin's pass from the right side, letting Donovan get it freely in the box. Donovan tried to create room for a shot, then delivered a short cross directly to Keane's head for his third postseason goal.
After Donovan nearly found Keane again on a sharp sequence in the 57th minute, the Galaxy added a second goal in the 64th. Keane, coming off a long run through the midfield, passed smartly to Franklin to the right and Franklin one-timed a perfect ball to Mike Magee.
Playing to his “Mr. November” nickname, Magee proceeded to calmly knock it past Gspurning's outstretched hands.
"He gave me a layup," Magee said of Franklin.
The Galaxy had three more serious chances for goals, including in the 76th minute, when Donovan's tap-in was kicked out a foot away from the goal line by Seattle center back Jeff Parke.
"You can't have everything in life," Arena said, smirking, in his postgame news conference.
L.A. goalkeeper Josh Saunders was solid, but he was barely challenged. Seattle's two best chances to score came on a strongly hit deep ball from Osvaldo Alonso in the 31st minute and a poor touch from Galaxy center back Omar Gonzalez in the 50th that almost went in for an own goal.
The Sounders, who beat Real Salt Lake on Thursday to qualify for the semis, were without top goal scorer Eddie Johnson until the 64th minute.
Sunday's return leg is scheduled for 6 p.m. PT at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, meaning the Galaxy will get a week’s break, including the next two days off from practices. Having played four games during the past 11 days and five in the past 15, Keane acknowledged Sunday that there were "a lot of tired legs in our camp."
"We've played about 50 games in the last two weeks," midfielder David Beckham said.
In two games in Seattle this season, the Galaxy lost by a combined six goals, 6-0. Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said he and his team "take solace in that fact," recalling their August 4-0 win, started by a sixth-minute strike from Johnson.
"We know we gotta come out with the same sort of effort," Schmid said.
Final notes: Donovan exited Sunday's match in the 84th minute with what he described as a tightening-up of his hamstring. Arena said the team was "hopeful" he'd be fine. An announced sellout crowd of 27,000 attended Sunday's match, the second straight sellout at the Home Depot Center. Tickets for a potential Dec. 1 MLS Cup final at the stadium against the Houston Dynamo went on sale shortly after the final whistle Sunday. Galaxy forward Edson Buddle did not suit up Sunday after suffering an unspecified injury during Saturday's training session. His absence in the lineup led to Wilhelmsson's start.
Chivas USA's quest for a trophy ended the same place its last real quest met its end, where every quest, at least for this trophy, seems to come to a close.
The Goats ran into the Seattle Sounders in Wednesday's U.S. Open Cup semifinals, and if their usual trouble spots -- an inability to create chances, costly mistakes in the worst places -- hadn't put them at a sizable disadvantage, then surely the reigning champs' attacking prowess would have done the trick.
The Sounders advanced to a fourth straight U.S. Open Cup title game -- and perhaps an unprecedented fourth straight triumph -- with a 4-1 romp in Tukwila, Wash., where they are 17-0 in the 99-year-old tournament.
Eddie Johnson gave Seattle a 31st-minute lead, Osvaldo Alonso converted a penalty kick at the start of the second half, and Cesar Romero's strike to halve the deficit with about 20 minutes to go was answered by UC Irvine product Brad Evans and Riverside's Sammy Ochoa near the end.
Chivas, which hasn't won a trophy in its 7 1/2-year history, failed in its biggest match since falling in the semifinals two years ago to the Sounders on the same Starfire Sports Complex turf.
“Early in the game was exactly as we expected it to be: a battle for territory, not giving anything up, getting into good spots,” head coach Robin Fraser told ESPN Los Angeles. “I really thought it was going exactly as expected. Then we made a mistake to give up a bad goal, made another mistake for a bad goal to start the second half, then we're chasing the game.”
Chivas, despite ample possession, couldn't penetrate, and the service from the wings wasn't good enough. Starfire's narrow dimensions caused problems, and the Goats didn't get off a shot until the 58th minute -- and didn't get off a good one until Romero, who provided a big spark off the bench, made it 2-1 in the 74th.
That has been the recurring theme all season: Chivas has only 17 goals over 21 games in all competitions, and it's not because chances aren't being taken.
“I'd say I'm running short on patience in terms of scoring goals,” said Fraser, whose team has been shut out in three of its last four Major League Soccer matches and scored more than once only four times all year, twice against lower-level Open Cup opposition. “We'll just continue to work at it, continue to try to get the ball in dangerous spots.”
Seattle will face Sporting Kansas City in the final Aug. 8 at Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan.
Sporting won, 2-0, at Philadelphia, with Jacob Peterson tallying from Graham Zusi's free kick in the 65th minute and -- with Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath pushed forward in search of an equalizer -- Zusi scoring from midfield into an empty net deep into stoppage.
Municipal, the record 29-time champions in Guatemala, are preparing for the first stage of the Liga Nacional and its fourth appearance in the CONCACAF Champions League. The Rojos, champions of last fall's Apertura, are in Group 7 with two-time defending CCL titlist Monterrey and Panamanian champ Chorrillo.
The match will kick off at 5 p.m. No time has yet been set for the first game, in which Pali takes on the Seattle Sounders for a berth in the USL W-League's final four. Pali, a two-time W-League champion, is 12-0-1 and wraps its Western Conference regular-season Sunday against the Sounders (8-2-1) at Palisades High School in Pacific Palisades.
Tickets are $30 and $20 for adults, $10 ages 12 and under for general admission, and are available by calling (714) 738-8011 or through the Blues' website.
Chivas USA sits just 90 minutes -- perhaps 120; perhaps penalty kicks, too -- from playing for its first trophy, but it's not just the Seattle Sounders that stand in its way.
History, too, has some say and plenty of sway, and it all favors the Sounders in Wednesday night's U.S. Open Cup semifinal in Tukwila, Wash.
- The Sounders have won the past three championships in the 99-year-old competition, one for every season they've played in Major League Soccer.
- They're in their sixth straight semifinal, dating to their time in the second division, haven't lost in the Open Cup since the 2007 semis and haven't been beaten in regulation since 2005.
- They have won all 16 Open Cup matches at Starfire Sports Complex's 4,500-seat stadium, which has been the incubator for Seattle's recent supremacy in the nation's oldest soccer event: The Sounders are 11-0 in Tukwila these past four campaigns.
Chivas, which lost in a 2010 semifinal at Starfire, isn't intimidated.
“It's a chance to get to a final for this club, very important,” said right back James Riley, who was part of all three Sounders title teams. “To do it at Starfire isn't going to be easy, and I think we're up for the challenge, for sure.”
Chivas has lost just once in 11 competitive matches, pulling out three tight Open Cup victories in that span, the last two -- in the fourth round at second-tier Carolina RailHawks and in the quarterfinals against third-tier Charlotte Eagles -- on goals in second-half stoppage.
Seattle has had it easier, blowing out the second-division Atlanta Silverbacks, 5-1, and Thousand Oaks-based amateurs Cal FC, 5-0, before holding off the San Jose Earthquakes in a 1-0 quarterfinal victory earlier this month in San Francisco.
The Sounders just ended a franchise-record nine-game MLS winless streak, and Riley, who came to the Goats last November via Montreal in the expansion draft, says that although “they've been struggling a little bit, I kn they have fantastic players. I know once they get one [win], they'll go on a little bit of a run.”
“It's a huge challenge,” Chivas head coach Robin Fraser said. “Obviously, Seattle wins frequently and wins at their place and wins in Open Cup, so certainly it's a great challenge going in there, but we like the fact that [ours] is a team that has really begun to respond to challenges. We feel as if we're doing some things well and are on the verge of doing some things even better.”
The Goats would play at Sporting Kansas City or Philadelphia Union if they topple three-time defending champion Seattle Sounders in Wednesday night's semifinal in Tukwila, Wash.
The final will be Aug. 7 or 8.
The Sounders, who have won the past two titles before 30,000-plus crowds at CenturyLink Field, would be home with a victory and a Philadelphia triumph over Sporting in Wednesday's other semifinal. Sporting is home with a win regardless of what happens in the Chivas-Sounders match.
Seattle beat Chivas in the 2010 semifinals, the only other time the Goats have advanced past their opening game.
Here are the title-game scenarios:
- Aug. 7-8: Chivas USA at Philadelphia Union/Sporting Kansas City
- Aug. 8: Seattle Sounders at Sporting Kansas City
- Aug. 8: Philadelphia Union at Seattle Sounders
Chivas USA's U.S. Open Cup semifinal next month has been pushed back 24 hours.
The Goats and Seattle Sounders will face off Wednesday, July 11, at 7 p.m. at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Wash. The match initially was scheduled for July 10.
No reason has been given for the change. Both teams have Major League Soccer home matches on July 7, and Seattle plays at New York on July 15, so the date falls perfectly between those matches. The Goats are off the weekend following the semifinal and next play at home on July 18.
Chivas advanced to the semifinals with a 2-1 victory Tuesday night over the Charlotte Eagles, from the third-tier USL Pro. Seattle, the three-time defending Open Cup champion, won its quarterfinal at San Jose, 1-0.
This is Chivas' second trip to the final four. The Goats lost two years ago in a semifinal against the Sounders in Tukwila.
The Goats will meet three-time defending champion Seattle Sounders, who won the meeting in the semis two years ago, on July 10 in Tukwila, Wash. The Sounders toppled the San Jose Earthquakes, 1-0, in Tuesday's semifinal in San Francisco.
Jose Erik Correa's second goal of the evening, nearly four minutes into stoppage, lifted Chivas to a 2-1 victory over USL Pro side Charlotte Eagles at Cal State Fullerton.
The Philadelphia Union and Sporting Kansas City will meet in the other all-MLS semifinal after cruising past opposition from the third-division USL Pro.
The Union scored three times in the first half-hour en route to a 5-2 romp over the Harrisburg City Islanders; Sporting received goals three minutes apart early in the second half from Graham Zusi and C.J. Sapong to pull away to a 3-0 victory over the Dayton Dutch Lions.
Philadelphia will be home for the July 11 clash. The U.S. Open Cup final will be played Aug. 7 or 8.
A quick look at the three quarterfinal matches not involving Chivas USA:
The Fullerton Rangers took a huge stride toward the National Premier Soccer League playoffs with Sunday's victory over FC Santa Clarita, a showdown for second place in the Western Division's Southern Conference.
Former Chivas USA/New York Red Bulls forward David Arvizu (Santa Ana/Foothill HS) scored two goals as the Rangers avenged a loss two months earlier in Santa Clarita with a 3-0 triumph at Santa Ana Stadium.
The Rangers (7-3-2) have a two-point advantage over the Storm (6-3-3) with two games to play. Both have matches remaining with the San Diego Flash (9-0-2), which has clinched the Southern Conference title.
The Rangers' NPSL team finished second to the Flash and went to the playoffs last year, when they were affiliated with the Santa Ana Winds.
Arvizu scored in the 17th and 60th minutes and Cuban forward Eder Roldan tallied in the 24th for Fullerton, which has won three in a row and scored at least three times in its past four games. Santa Clarita has won just twice in its past five games, over the division's two worst clubs (Phoenix and North Coast, with a combined 2-18-1 record), and could rue a 1-1 draw at home June 9 with San Diego Boca (4-5-3).
Santa Clarita is likely to vault back to second next weekend, when it faces fading Conejo Valley side FC Hasental (3-7-2), but getting a resullt against the Flash on July 7 is critical to the Storm' playoff hopes. Fullerton plays the Flash in San Diego this weekend, then closes July 8 at home against Boca.
Elsewhere in minor-league soccer:
U.S. Soccer announced the semifinal pairings Thursday, and they followed the expected regionalization, with all three West Coast teams on one side of the bracket and the clubs in the East and Midwest in the other bracket.
Chivas plays against an Eastern team, third-division Charlotte Eagles, on Tuesday at Cal State Fullerton's Titan Stadium. MLS rivals San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders meet in San Francisco.
Seattle is the 99-year-old tournament's three-time defending champion.
If the Earthquakes advance, they will stage the semifinal at Santa Clara University's Buck Shaw Stadium, their home field until a planned permanent stadium opens possibly next year or in 2014. The Sounders would play at their No. 2 facility, Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Wash.
Chivas reached the semifinals in 2010, losing to Seattle.
Semifinal games would be played July 10 or 11.
Here are the semifinal pairings:
- Chivas USA (MLS)/Charlotte Eagles (USL Pro) at Seattle Sounders (MLS), June 10, 7 p.m., or Chivas USA (MLS)/Charlotte Eagles (USL Pro) at San Jose Earthquakes (MLS), June 10, 7:30 p.m.
- Sporting Kansas City (MLS) at Philadelphia Union (MLS), July 11, 4:30 p.m., or Dayton Dutch Lions (USL Pro) at Philadelphia Union (MLS), July 10, 4:30 p.m., or Dayton Dutch Lions (USL Pro) at Harrisburg City Islanders (USL Pro), July 10, 4:30 p.m., or Harrisburg City Islanders (USL Pro) at Sporting Kansas City (MLS), July 10, 5:30 p.m.
And here are Tuesday's quarterfinal pairings:
- Charlotte Eagles (USL Pro) vs. Chivas USA (MLS) at Cal State Fullerton, 7:30 p.m.
- Harrisburg City Islanders (USL Pro) at Philadelphia Union (MLS), 4:30 p.m.
- Dayton Dutch Lions (USL Pro) at Sporting Kansas City (MLS), 5:30 p.m.
- Seattle Sounders (MLS) at San Jose Earthquakes (MLS), 7:30 p.m.
The Premier Development League expansion side rallied for a 1-1 draw although down a man in a showdown of the Southwest Division's Nos. 1 and 2 clubs at Ventura College, an intense clash that ended with a little postgame dustup in the parking lot, the Arizona club reported on its website.
Francisco Lopez gave Ventura the lead five minutes into the second half, but Danny Toia -- Real Salt Lake's first Home Grown Player, released by the Major League Soccer club in February -- netted the 61st-minute equalizer. Tucson was down to 10 players after Eli Galbrath-Knapp's dismissal in the 30th minute.
The Arizonans (6-1-3) surged into first place, one point ahead of the Fusion (6-1-2), with Monday's 1-1 draw against L.A. Misioneros.
Elsewhere in minor-league soccer:
USL PRO: Bright Dike is the third-division league's Player of the Week after scoring the goals in the L.A. Blues' 1-0 wins Friday and Sunday over Dayton, which sent them from seventh to fifth in the table. Goalkeeper Amir Abedzadeh made the PDL Team of the Week. Only first-place Orlando City (9-1-2, 2.4167) and second-place Charleston (8-3-0, 2.1818) have more points per game than do the Blues (5-3-2, 1.7000).
Now he's back with the Sounders, taking the next step in his journey to being a full-fledged professional.
Steres (Calabasas/Calabasas HS), who starred at San Diego State, was taken by Seattle in last week's college-waiver draft and headed over the weekend to Washington.
“We're getting the contract [sorted out], and then working my way up to get a starting role, obviously,” Steres told ESPN Los Angeles after the Fusion's 2-1 victory Friday evening over Orange County Blue Star. “Sounds like they're excited to have me come in. I'm excited to go in.”
Steres, probably a center back or right back in MLS, lost out in numbers games during preseason at Chivas and, after his release by the Goats, in Seattle. He's been superb for the Fusion, bolstering the backline next to Mickey Daly (Cal State L.A.) or Tim Pontius (Yorba Linda/Servite HS and UC Santa Barbara) or teaming with former Chivas USA/Portland Timbers midfielder Rodrigo Lopez (Santa Barbara/Santa Barbara HS) in central midfield.
The Fusion (6-1-1) are atop the Southwest Division after rallying for a 2-1 win against Blue Star at Concordia University. Travis Bowen (Van Nuys/Chatsworth HS), the older brother of Chivas USA forward Tristan Bowen, scored both goals -- his fourth and division-best fifth of the season -- with the winner coming in the 76th minute.
Ventura is one point ahead of FC Tucson, which visits the Fusion next weekend.
Pontius, the younger brother of D.C. United midfielder Chris Pontius, also is getting some MLS attention. The big center back, a Sounders draft pick, has been in camp the past week with the Galaxy. He says playing with the Fusion has helped prepare him.
“College is one thing,” he said. “College prepares you for the next step. This is kind of the in-between phase between college and pros. You've got a lot of players here who can make the next step.”
He said his time with Sounders in preseason was “spectacular.”
“Unfortunately, it didn't work out for me, but at the end, I gained a lot of experience out of that opportunity,” Pontius said. “Spots were tight there, so there's only so much you can do. You play your game, if it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out. You try the next one.”
Elsewhere in minor-league soccer:
CARSON -- Bobby Burling is “just kind of doing the MLS tour,” spending a week or so with Colorado and now with Chivas USA, hoping a backline job will come his way.
He needs things to clear up north of the border first.
The 27-year-old center back, a 2007 Galaxy draft pick who spent all or parts of three seasons with Chivas USA, joined fellow trialist Scott Morrison on the Goats' backline for Friday's MLS Reserve League game against the San Jose Earthquakes at Home Depot Center.
Burling, a Coloradan who starred at Loyola Marymount University, has been in camp with Chivas since last week. His rights are owned by the Montreal Impact, which took him from San Jose in November's MLS Expansion Draft, but he has no future in Quebec.
“It's been a frustrating five or six months, to say the least ...,” Burling said after going the full 90 minutes in Chivas' 3-1 victory. “The situation with Montreal has been kind of a dead end, and for whatever reason it's taken longer than I would of definitely liked for something to happen.”
Burling was unable to reach a deal with the Impact, and he's been unable to secure his release so he could join another MLS club. If a team wants him, it likely would have to make a trade for his rights.
“Long story short, a bit of a contract dispute,” he said. “He said/she said what I was going to get when I came up there, and basically things went backwards from there, and now here we stand.
“It's frustrating. I was really looking forward to going there, and now it's all kind of up in the air.”
Cal FC caught the fancy of fans across the country -- across the globe -- with its unfathomable run through the U.S. Open Cup, and the Thousand Oaks-based amateur club did its best to give the mighty Seattle Sounders a battle Tuesday night.
It managed to do so for a little more than a half, but a penalty kick opened the gates, and the Major League Soccer powerhouse poured in five goals over roughly 20 minutes to cruise to a 5-0 fourth-round triumph in Tukwila, Wash.
Osvaldo Alonso and Fredy Montero scored two goals apiece and the Sounders, winners of the last three trophies in the 99-year-old tournament, outshot Cal FC, 28-4, to romp into a quarterfinal showdown June 26 against the San Jose Earthquakes in San Francisco.
“I think we bit off more than we could chew, and, obviously, Seattle is a fantastic team,” Cal FC manager Eric Wynalda said afterward on Fox Soccer Channel's coverage of the match. “We were talking about it at halftime: Would we be able to stay with them? We got a little unfortunate with the penalty kick -- that certainly didn't help -- but [the Sounders are a] classy team, and I expect Seattle to be a contender to win this whole thing again.”
It was scoreless until the 50th minute, when a Montero blast struck Beto Navarro's arm, and Alonso barely beat Cal goalkeeper Derby Castillo to the left post.
The Sounders already were in charge by that point, but Cal FC -- a veteran group of undervalued players, most of them pros, that Wynalda put together in February -- gave an admirable performance, holding off repeated Seattle attacks and moving the ball around nicely without penetrating Seattle's defense. Castillo, midfielder Pablo Cruz and defender Jesus Gonzalez were solid all night.
“We weren't happy with some of the things we did [in the first half], but [Cal FC] played well,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid told FSC, which employs Wynalda as an on-air analyst and served as jersey sponsor for his team Tuesday night. “We weren't worried about a lot in front of our goal, but they did a good job of keeping possession, spreading the ball around. They're quick, they're technical, they're a good team.”
Cal FC managed just one shot on goal -- a 17th-minute Danny Barrera drive off of a corner kick sent straight at Seattle goalkeeper Bryan Meredith -- and never looked particularly dangerous.
All three third-division teams in action Tuesday pulled out victories, all in overtime, to advance to the June 26 quarterfinals in the 99th edition of American soccer's oldest and most prestigious knockout tournament.
The Charlotte Eagles, Dayton Dutch Lions and Harrisburg City Islanders join five Major League Soccer clubs in the final eight, all of them set to take on first-division opposition.
The Islanders pulled off the upset, booting MLS power New York Red Bulls from the competition for the second time in three years. Sainey Touray, a former Red Bull, scored his second goal of the night in the 94th minute and rookie Lucky Mkosana added another in the 117th for a 3-1 victory.
Harrisburg overcame a three-goal overtime deficit last week to beat the New England Revolution on penalties.
Dayton toppled amateurs Michigan Bucks, 2-1, and Charlotte claimed a 2-1 win at San Antonio, on Mauricio Salles' 116th-minute penalty kick, in the USL Pro's only showdown with the second-division North American Soccer League.
Charlotte will play Chivas USA at Home Depot Center. Dayton has a date at Sporting Kansas City.
The Philadelphia Union also needed overtime to get past D.C. United in one of two all-MLS clashes.
Yorba Linda's Steven Lenhart was the hero for the the San Jose Earthquakes, scoring in the 85th minute to beat the NASL's Minnesota Thunder, 2-1, at Stanford.
Here is a scorelist and schedule:
The W-League's Western Conference title appears to be headed the Pali Blues' way or to the Seattle Sounders. They're the chief contenders just four weeks into the campaign.
Pali completed sweeps of its Southern California rivals, both of them one-goal home wins, to improve to 4-0-0. The Sounders, also 4-0-0, won three games last week with U.S. national team stars Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, Sydney Leroux, Megan Rapinoe and Stephanie Cox on hand.
Morgan (Diamond Bar/Diamond Bar HS) scored and assisted Lyndsey Patterson's goal in the 3-0 romp Monday night over Colorado Rapids' women's team. Leroux (UCLA) had an assist in a 2-1 win Thursday over the third-place Colorado Rush (3-1-0), a match that sold out the Starfire Sports Complex's 4,500-seat stadium in Tukwila, Wash.
Pali, which is affiliated with the L.A. Blues' men's team (both are coached by Charlie Naimo), got goals from Nikki Washington and Liz Bogus to beat the L.A. Strikers, 2-1, then pulled out a 1-0 triumph over Santa Clarita Blue Heat on Australian national-teamer Servet Uzunlar's goal three minutes into second-half stoppage.
The Blues and Sounders meet twice this season: June 20 in Tukwila and in the July 15 regular-season finale at Palisades High School.
Elsewhere in minor-league soccer: