Marcelo Sarvas
Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Marcelo Sarvas (8) celebrates his goal in the second half of the Western Conference Championship game against the Seattle Sounders FC at StubHub Center. Galaxy won 1-0. Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Galaxy were the first to draw blood in the first leg of their much anticipated showdown with the Seattle Sounders on Sunday. The two best teams in the MLS met in the Western Conference Finals of the 2014 MLS Cup Playoffs and were saved from being shut out at home by Brazilian Marcelo Sarvas.

The match was even keeled for much of the game as both teams had ample opportunities. It was the Galaxy however who finally got a little luck as Sarvas found the back of the net on a deflection off of the body of Sounders defender, Chad Marshall, and that would be the only goal of the game as Los Angeles went on to win 1-0 in front of 27,000 fans at the sold out StubHub Center.

Early on it looked like the Galaxy might be in trouble as every shot sailed high over the net. The Sounders had great scoring opportunities as well, but had trouble getting anything past LA’s goalkeeper, Jamie Penedo.

“Every time we needed a big save he has and that’s what you need to win a championship,” said teammate Landon Donovan.

The highly anticipated matchup of two star-studded teams featured a pair of dynamic duos. Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane were the best offensive duo in the MLS this season, but the Sounders for most of the game denied Donovan the ball. Every time Donovan gained possession he was quickly double teamed and forced to pass off. It seemed early on that the Sounders were set on letting anyone but Donovan beat them.

Seattle’s duo of Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey was lethal on offense for the Sounders. The nearly opened up the scoring in the 20th minute as both stars fired close-range shots and forced Penedo to make a fantastic double save that may have been the difference in the game.

Seattle Sounders midfielder Clint Dempsey (2) attempts a shot as Los Angeles Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo (18) reaches to block the ball during the second half of the Western Conference Championship at StubHub Center. The Los Angeles Galaxy defeated the Seattle Sounders 1-0. Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The game was very physical as are most games between the two teams. Four yellow cards were shown in total, and a lot of late rough tackles by the Sounders’ Zach Scott late had the Galaxy questioning if the officiating was just or if they wanted all players to advance to the next game.

“We don’t have kids on our team, we have grown men. If someone is going to tackle, we’ll tackle back. That’s what we do. It’s a man’s game,” said Galaxy forward Robbie Keane about the physical play.

The Galaxy finally broke through in the 52nd minute off of an unlucky break for Seattle. After the Sounders almost scored an own goal, Stefan Ishizaki found midfielder, Marcelo Sarvas, open inside the box. Sarvas’ shot deflected off Marshall and into the net to give the Galaxy the lead. It was Sarvas’ second goal of the postseason.

The Galaxy would have liked to secure a larger goal advantage after the home game heading into Seattle next week, which is arguably the toughest stadium to play in all of the MLS. However, by keeping the Sounders scoreless, they denied Seattle the opportunity to maintain an away goal advantage. That means if the Galaxy can score just one goal in Seattle, they can draw, or lose 2-1 and still advance to the MLS Cup Final.

“Not conceding a goal is important. That’s a plus,” said LA Galaxy head coach and General Manager, Bruce Arena. “It will be a battle on Sunday.”

The series now sets up for a dramatic second leg to the Western Conference Finals, which will take place next Sunday, November 30th in Seattle. The winner of that match will face either the New England Revolution or the New York Red Bulls in the MLS Cup Final on December 7th.

“We’re confident. We’ve been there (Seattle) twice this year. We were thoroughly dominant in the first game and were the much better team for 80 minutes of the second game,” said Landon Donovan after the game. “We know we’re going to get their best shot and we look forward to it.”

Game Notes:
Seattle played without key stars, Osvlado Alonso and Lamar Neagle. It is unknown whether one or both will play in the second leg next Sunday. After the game, Sarvas said he felt the muscle in his leg “pull” and will get an MRI tomorrow. His status for next week is unknown

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