I’ve been out photographing the March to the Match and generally soaking up the wonderful football atmosphere in this incredible setting for a stadium that would make any English fan feel right at home, so am late starting blogging this afternoon as the Halloween dusk gathers.
A major change for the Galaxy this evening – Todd Dunivant has a right hamstring strain he apparently has been dealing with all week – and his absence means soon-to-retire Eddie Lewis starts at left back, his first MLS start since the opening week of the season.
It will be interesting to see if the speedy Seattle front line can take advantage of Lewis as the game wears on.
That aside, no real surprises in the Galaxy’s starting XI: Donovan Ricketts, Sean Franklin, Eddie Lewis, A.J. DeLaGarza, Omar Gonzalez, David Beckham, Juninho, Dema Kovalenko, Landon Donovan, Mike Magee, Edson Buddle.
Gregg Berhalter is on the bench, along with Chris Birchall, Tristan Bowen, Alex Cazumba, Jovan Kirovski and yes, Chris Klein. So, there’s no Michael Stephens.
Here’s the Sounders’ lineup: Kasey Keller, James Riley, Jeff Parke, Patrick Ianni, Leo Gonzalez, Sanna Nyassi, Osvaldo Alonso, Nathan Sturgis, Steve Zakuani, Fredy Montero, Blaise Nkufo.
Former Galaxy striker Nate Jaqua is on the bench for the Sounders.
Refresh this page for updates as the game progresses.
We’re minutes away from the opening whistle. The game is on ESPN2.
The entire stadium – yes, the entire stadium – is standing and holding aloft a rave green scarf even before the teams emerge from the tunnel.
Seattle had the ball in the net after just 32 seconds, but Zakuani was called for offside.
The individual matchups in this one are already aapparent – Nyassi verses Lewis on the right for Seattle; Kovalenko and Alonso will battle in midfield.
Montero twice went close for Seattle in successive minutes starting in the 23rd minute.
Ricketts first pushed a low Montero shot from 20 yards around the post after he went around DeLaGarza like he wasn’t even there and then Montero got his head on the ball that Ricketts was forced to just push over the bar.
Never mind Lewis, Seattle is stretching the entire Galaxy defense who are having trouble with the Sounders’ speed and mobility.
The Galaxy’s forays forward are significantly less frequent and threatening than Seattle’s as we hit the 35th minute mark.
Sounders 0 Galaxy 1
The Galaxy have scored out of nowhere in the 38th minute, Edson Buddle with a cracking effort after getting on the end of a long Gonzalez ball. He deftly beat Ianni with one touch and with his second cracked the ball with a smashing shot from 30-35 yards that gave Keller no chance.
This crowd has largely been silenced as the Galaxy finish what amounts to the first quarter with a 1-0 lead, after Seattle easily had the bulk of the attacking play.
The Galaxy defense soaked up the pressure well with Ricketts coming to the rescue on a couple of occasions.
What will that goal do to the Sounders’ psyche?
Key stat: Sounders have the advantage in shots on goal 7-4, but, of course, not on then scoreboard where it counts.
Attendance tonight: 35,521 – 9th highest all time for the MLS playoffs.
Thirty minutes left; not a whole lot going on in the first 15 minutes of the half. That will suit the Galaxy.
A Zakuani shot hit the post in the 64th minute – he was offside anyway.
First sub of the game in the 65th minute – the Sounders bring in former Galaxy defender Tyrone Marshall for a gimpy looking Jeff Parke. He has a sprained left ankle.
Chris Birchall is replacing Kovalenko in the 70th minute. Dema was told to calm down a few minutes ago by his teammates and he’s already on a yellow.
Jovan Kirovski is replacing Buddle up front in the 73rd minute; is Arena already protecting him for the second leg next Sunday?
If the worst mistake the Galaxy make this game is mispelling Kirovski’s name – the “s” and “k” are transposed – Arena will be more than pleased.
Ten minutes to go – the Galaxy are killing this game off effectively.
Last roll of the dice for Sigi’s Sounders – it’s a Nate for Nate; striker Nate Jaqua has come on for midfielder Nate Sturgis.
Five minutes of stoppage time to go – although surely the game hasn’t stopped for that long.
Final: Sounders 0 Galaxy 1
The Galaxy take a one goal lead back home to Southern California at what is essentially halftime of this 180-minute game. The final 90 minutes will begin at 6 p.m. next Sunday at Home Depot Center.