The familiar “Beat L.A.” chant that so often echoed through KeyArena for SuperSonics games could be moving across town to Qwest Field.
Seattle Sounders FC and the Los Angeles Galaxy met for the first time in MLS play Sunday, slugging out a 1-1 draw before a crowd of 29,025. And if the goal totals were modest, the number of fouls and cautions were not.
The Galaxy drew 16 fouls, the Sounders 10. Nine cards were issued, including a red card that sent Seattle defender James Riley off in the 57th minute. There was equal bad feeling about a foul that wasn’t called late in the first half, when Sounders forward Nate Jaqua was taken down in the penalty area.
And if all that wasn’t enough to fan a simmering rivalry into flames, coach Sigi Schmid added fuel with a postgame assessment that took equal shots at the referee and the Galaxy’s style of play, if not the players’ very manhood.
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“I’m very proud of our team from the standpoint of playing a man down and still trying to go for the win, whereas the opponent was a man up and they were very content to tie the game and take it to 90 minutes,” Schmid said. “I’m very disappointed in the ejection, and I’m disappointed in the refereeing.”
The Sounders seemed in position to alter the Galaxy’s style of play – which now has yielded a one-goal win, a one-goal loss and six draws in eight games – by jumping ahead in the 22nd minute on Sebastien Le Toux’s first MLS goal.
The play started as Steve Zakuani sent a pass to Nate Jaqua, who was wide open as the L.A. defense seemed to mistime an offside trap. Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts charged off his line at Jaqua. But Jaqua tapped the ball wide to Le Toux, who basically walked the ball into the goal.
“The way they played was kind of congested a bit, so we knew behind them was space,” Zakuani said. “(Once the ball) came to me I looked up, I saw Nate make a great run, I put it in, he touched it round, and Seba finished it.”
The lead seemed to invigorate the Sounders, who dominated the next five minutes with three more scoring chances.
None went in, however, and suddenly the L.A. equalizer appeared out of nowhere. Mike Magee sent a high pass to open Alan Gordon, who headed high and left of diving Kasey Keller.
“Their whole playing style all season has been to keep themselves close and in games and snag a goal here and there,” Schmid said. “They got a good cross and a good finish on a ball that we lost coming off the back.”
The game turned again early in the second half, when L.A.’s Gregg Berhalter picked up the ball, delaying Seattle’s efforts to restart play. Riley tried to take the ball from him, and a scuffle started involving several players. When order was restored, Riley was sent to the locker room, while Mcgee and Seattle’s Freddie Ljungberg drew yellow cards.
“We were just trying to get the ball and keep it up-tempo,” Riley said. “I think we started the second half on the front foot, and we talked at halftime and talked about trying to take some quick ones. He held onto it and it starts a melee, and things happen like that.”
There would be three more cautions over the final 30 minutes, but no more goals.
The Sounders (4-2-2) slipped two points further behind first-place Chivas USA in the Western Conference, while even the Galaxy seemed to be tiring of all its draws.
“We didn’t do a good enough job in the last 10 minutes of the game to put us in position to win,” L.A. coach Bruce Arena said. “That would be my criticism of the game. We didn’t tactically do the things to do the things at the end of the game with an extra player to create a chance to maybe get yourself the three points.”
The Sounders now face back-to-back road games, starting with a Saturday visit to FC Dallas.
Round 2 in their emerging rivalry with the Galaxy will play out Aug. 15 in Southern California.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808