LA Galaxy
os Angeles Galaxy players surround teammate Juninho (19) after he scored against the Seattle Sounders FC during the second half of the Western Conference Championship at CenturyLink Field. Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

SEATTLE – The Sounders may have won the match 2-1, but once again one of the MLS’s premier franchises was denied the opportunity to play for the MLS Cup by their rivals, the Los Angeles Galaxy.

The Galaxy only scored one goal on Sunday, but it was all they needed after not conceding an away goal to Seattle at the StubHub Center last week. The two teams tied 2-2 on aggregate goals, but thanks to a new rule change this year, the Galaxy advanced to their ninth MLS Cup final by virtue of their one away goal.

It was a cold and chilly night at CenturyLink Field in Seattle where going into the game, the Seattle Sounders needed to do something they haven’t done all season: attack on offense. They did exactly that scoring two first half goals, but the Galaxy advanced to the MLS Cup Finals after a second half goal by Brazil’s Juninho.

Juninho and the Galaxy made sure that team captain and the most decorated American in soccer history, Landon Donovan, would play his last game in the MLS Cup Final next week. The Galaxy lost the match 2-1 in the Emerald City, but advanced to the MLS Cup 2-2 aggregate thanks to the away goal tiebreaker.

Seattle seemed to find their form more in this game thanks to the return of their captain of the midfield, Osvaldo Alonso. Alonso missed the first game with a hamstring injury, but was able to make it on the pitch and create opportunities for his teammates like Dempsey and Obafemi Martins. Lamar Neagle also returned to the pitch for the Sounders after missing the first leg in Los Angeles for personal reasons. Neagle’s attack minded approach, lead to the Sounders both goals in the game and his importance was clearly felt from start to finish.

Seattle scored twice in a five-minute span in the first half thanks to some sloppy defense by the Galaxy and some lackluster goalkeeping by Jamie Penedo. In the 26th minute Penedo left the goal to try and grab a ball away from Clint Dempsey on the right hand side of the net, but Dempsey was able to sneak it by Penedo and over to Brad Evans who was right in front of the net for the tap in. Galaxy defender, Leonardo wasn’t able to clear it, costing LA the 1-0 lead the secured in leg one last week in Los Angeles.

Five minutes later it was Dempsey again at the center of the Sounders attack. Galaxy’s Omar Gonzalez deflected a cross into the box that landed unluckily at the feet of “Captain America” Clint Dempsey. Dempsey shot from the center of the box, right at Penedo who was able to get two hand on it. He slipped and was unable to secure the save as the ball trickled into the net behind him.

Seattle Sounders
The Seattle Sounders FC celebrate after midfielder Brad Evans (3) scored a goal against the Los Angeles Galaxy in the first half during the Western Conference Championship at CenturyLink Field. Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

The LA Galaxy would not go quietly into the night however, and after a short intermission during halftime, they came out looking for the ever-important away goal that could shock the Sounders and send them through to the MLS Cup. Brazilian native Juninho saved the season for Los Angeles in the 54th minute. Landon Donovan sent a corner kick into the box that ping-ponged out to Juninho who sent a lazer into the left hand corner of the net. The ball hit the woodwork and the Galaxy got a lucky bounce as it ricocheted off the post and into the net.

Swiss goalkeeper Stefan Frei was stellar in net for most of the match for the Sounders. After the astounding away goal by Juninho, Frei made two huge saves of his own that kept Seattle in the game. Minutes after the goal, Landon Donovan stole a pass in the midfield and streaked untouched down the left hand side where he was one on one with Frei. Donovan tried to sneak it past Frei on the far post, but Frei made a great diving save to knock it away.

Frei made another important save in the 67th minute when Galaxy Midfielder Stefan Ishizaki was wide open on a header after a set piece. Once again Frei made an amazing save on Ishizaki’s shot, denying the Galaxy the two-goal lead on away goals. Ishizaki was replaced on the pitch for striker Alan Gordon just minutes later.

The Galaxy will now try and win their record breaking 5th MLS Cup next week when they host the New England Revolution in Los Angeles. It is the third MLS Cup final appearance for the Galaxy in four years and will be the third time the MLS Cup final will be between Los Angeles and New England, two of the original MLS teams.

Unfortunately for the Sounders, this is the third time their rivals, the Galaxy have eliminated them from the MLS Cup Playoffs in the past five years. Seattle was looking to become the first team in MLS history to win the MLS Cup, the Supporters Shield, and the US Open Cup in the same season.

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