Sounders FC

Buddle's 'wonder shot' gives Galaxy edge over Sounders in MLS playoffs

Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid implied it was a lucky goal.

Goalkeeper Kasey Keller thought it was a 1-in-100 shot.

Defender Patrick Ianni called the 25-yard shot a wonder strike.

And Los Angeles striker Edson Buddle, the man who hit it, acknowledged it was probably his best goal of the season – no small achievement for a man whose 17 goals were second-most in Major League Soccer this season.

Whether luck or skill or some combination, pure math is all that matters in the MLS world of aggregate-score playoff series. And Buddle’s goal was all the Galaxy needed to take a 1-0 win in its playoff opener Sunday at Qwest Field.

However, Schmid quickly reminded that the result reflects only half of a 180-minute competition that will determine which club advances to the Western Conference finals.

“Hats off to Edson, but he just turns and hits the ball in basically the direction of the goal, it could go anywhere, and it went in,” Schmid said. “But at the end of the day, right now we’re down at halftime, 1-0. We have a second half to play in L.A. And everything is still possible for us.”

Buddle only smiled when told of Schmid’s implication that the goal had been lucky.

“As a striker: good contact, follow through, keep your head down and the ball will find the net,” he said. “ The contact felt good, and once I looked up I saw the way the ball was dipping and it had a chance of going in.”

The strike came largely against the run of play, because the Sounders had started aggressively and had the better chances.

That changed in the 38th minute, when L.A. defender Omar Gonzalez lifted a pop-fly of a pass from near midfield to Buddle, who was just above the penalty area.

Buddle shielded Ianni, one-touched the ball left to gain space, and launched a shot that looped over Keller but under the crossbar.

Here’s how the two Sounders most involved saw it:

Ianni: “The ball came into Edson, and I tried to bump him a little bit. He just kind of wrapped me with his arm, kind of put it to the side of him. When he went to shoot I thought obviously Kasey would have it. But he hit a wonder strike, so it’s one of those.”

Keller: “It’s just one of those things that I think guys try 100 times in their career and never make it happen. The one time he got it to go in a big game – and great goals change games.”

Because the Sounders had controlled up to that point, Schmid said that his team remained confident, even down 1-0 at half. But the equalizer never came.

Seattle ended with 15 shots, put eight on goal, and had more than a few chances that could come back to haunt them through the offseason.

“(L.A. goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts) came up with a couple big saves in the first half and in the second half, I think we squandered a couple chances,” Schmid said. “The shot that (Steve) Zakuani had and certainly (Nate) Jaqua’s chance there at the end. If we finish better or if Donovan doesn’t have the game that he has, we may come off this field 2- or 3-1 winners. We were confident that we’d come back, but it wasn’t meant to be.”

Los Angeles coach Bruce Arena also lamented his team’s missed opportunities to increase the advantage that it will take to Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., where the series will conclude Sunday.

And the Sounders stressed that they believe that single goal is something they can overcome.

“It’s a long ways from being over,” Keller said. “And that’s what I’m probably happy about. If you’re going to lose, this is the way to lose. You lose 1-0 on a ridiculous goal and you have all confidence to go down there, and if it’s 1-0 and penalties, if it’s 2-1, whatever it takes, we will make it happen. We will do our best to make it happen.”

Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com

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