Two of Sounders FC’s biggest stars provided the heroics Wednesday, while two of the Los Angeles Galaxy’s biggest stars sat home.
Seattle’s Eddie Johnson recorded his second goal in five days, while Fredy Montero made his first goal of the Major League Soccer season a memorable one. The result was a 2-0 win over the defending MLS Cup champions before a crowd of 39,002 at CenturyLink Field.
“Happy to see Montero get his first goal,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “He chose a difficult one, rather than an easy one. But that’s probably a goal-of-the-week winner – if not, a candidate for sure, but I think a winner. And again, Eddie Johnson, I think you’re starting to see now what he can provide for our team running up front.”
Los Angeles traveled without star David Beckham and goals-leader Robbie Keane for this middle match in a stretch of three games over eight days.
“I think it’s a difficult week, with the travel and playing on this surface,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “We wanted to keep some players fresh for the game on Saturday. That’s the decision I made.”
Facing an equally busy week, Schmid started with a more conventional lineup. However, his team played the final 45 minutes without No. 1 goalkeeper Michael Gspurning, who left with a right-hip injury that is not thought to be serious.
He was replaced by Bryan Meredith, making his MLS debut.
“I just came right out afterwards and started to get warmed up as quick as possible,” Meredith said. “I didn’t even have much time to be nervous.”
Meredith was a second-round pick in the 2011 SuperDraft, spent last season leading the Kitsap Pumas to the Premier Development League title, and returned to the club this season. Injuries to reserve keepers Andrew Weber and Josh Ford also aided his climb up the depth chart.
He made one save: a low shot from Landon Donovan.
“Having that first early shot – relatively easy save – helped me calm my nerves,” Meredith said. “It didn’t matter who it came from as long as I got the ball in my hands and secured it.”
Seattle (5-1-1) dominated Los Angeles (3-4-1) most of the way and had the best chances. A couple of the early chances involved Montero, the Sounders’ career goals leader, who hadn’t managed any over this season’s first six games.
Seattle finally broke through in the 40th minute, as Mauro Rosales launched a pass from the top of the attacking third. It came down near the penalty kick spot, where Johnson got his head to it, and snapped the ball past Los Angeles goalkeeper Bill Gaudette, who was making his second start of the season.
“It was just me trying to get in between the two center backs,” Johnson said. “I knew Mauro was in a position where he was either going to beat the guy or cross the ball. It was a perfect cross, I just wanted to get my head on it and redirect it. The pace was already with the ball, and it was just a great ball by Mauro. It wasn’t hard for me because the cross was so perfect, but I’ll take it.”
Montero’s breakthrough finally came in the 48th minute when Los Angeles allowed him to carry the ball through space. He pulled the trigger about 35 yards away, sizzling the ball over Gaudette’s outstretched arm and into the far top corner.
“I have to give the credit to my teammates because after those chances the only thing they said was, ‘Come on. It’s coming. Keep trying. The next one you have to put in,’ ” Montero said. “That was all I did: tried to be focused into the game, and finally I scored that goal.”
The Sounders return to training this morning, preparing for their Saturday home match against the Philadelphia Union.Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer Twitter: @donruiztnt