LOS ANGELES – The distance between Sounders FC and the top of Major League Soccer has never been greater.
That is true in the MLS standings, where Seattle wakes up this morning 21 points behind league-leading Los Angeles at the midpoint of the season.
But it also was obvious on the Home Depot Center pitch Sunday, when the Galaxy dominated the free-falling Sounders on their way to a 3-1 win. L.A. outshot Seattle, 15-9, and had 11 corner kicks to Seattle’s one.
“We didn’t get enough pressure onto them defensively early enough,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “That was the story of the night for us. You’ve got to play with energy and I think we got overrun.”
Los Angeles broke ahead in the 19th minute in just the way the sellout crowd of 27,000 might have scripted: on a combination featuring the United States World Cup teammates Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle.
Back with the Galaxy for the first time since their duty in South Africa, Donovan sent a corner kick into the penalty area, and Buddle outjumped the Seattle defense to knock it past goalkeeper Kasey Keller.
“I’m tired but I’m really happy to be back,” Donovan said. “I played a lot of games this year and my body is pretty worn out so I need some time to rest.”
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said he wouldn’t take chances with either Donovan or Buddle.
“You could see early in the game that Landon’s legs were a little bit heavy,” Arena said. “He certainly hasn’t recovered. With Edson, there was not that much activity over the last six weeks. He’s going to need a little bit of time.”
Los Angeles struck again in the 48th minute, when the Sounders defense gave acres of space to midfielder Juninho.
The Brazilian used the time to wind up and launch a swirling screamer into the far netting from 30 yards.
“We seem a little more mature,” Donovan said. “I think we’re starting to pass better, to move better. The guys in the midfield look great. We’re just getting more confident.”
The Sounders seemed to threaten for the only point of the match after a Steve Zakuani goal in the 66th minute. That play began with a steal by Patrick Ianni, who touched it on to Zakuani. He carried the ball across midfield, passed to Fredy Montero, who returned it.
Zakuani made a sharp inside move at the top of the box, losing Galaxy defender Gregg Berhalter, and finished wide of goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.
However, any Seattle hopes of stealing a point disappeared 11 minutes later, when Alan Gordon ran unchecked down the right side of the pitch, and then sent a rolling pass across the goalmouth toward Donovan. Sounders defender James Riley slid to clear the ball, but knocked it into his own goal instead.
It was the third consecutive game – all losses – in which the Sounders have allowed three goals.
It also was their fifth loss in their past six league games, and they remained winless against Western Division rivals – six of which are drifting away from them in the standings.
The Sounders (4-8-3) and Galaxy (11-1-3) will meet again at 7 p.m. Wednesday, this time in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila.
Game discussion and additional notes and quotes are available at blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer