The Seattle Sounders dethroned the defending MLS champions and their longtime nemesis Los Angeles Galaxy, 3-2, Wednesday at CenturyLink Field.
The Sounders moved ahead twice, and the Galaxy game from behind twice is a wild first half.
But in the 73rd minute, midfielder Erik Friberg took advantage of a poor Galaxy clearance from in front of their own goal, and this time the Sounders held on to the final whistle.
Their reward is a trip to the Western Conference semifinal round, where they will meet either top-seeded FC Dallas or second-seed Vancouver in a two-game, aggregate-score series. The Sounders will host the opener on Sunday. Seattle’s opponent will be determined Thursday night when Kansas City visits Portland. A Timbers win pairs the Sounders with Dallas, an SKC win serves up the Whitecaps.
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All that because the Sounders finally found a way past the Galaxy, who had ended three of their previous six trips into the postseason.
The match started wildly. Clint Dempsey sent Seattle ahead in the fifth minute. Sebastian Lletget equalized in the sixth. Nelson Valdez returned the lead to Seattle in the 12th minute. Gyasi Zardes pulled L.A. back level in the 22th.
That ended the first-half goal-scoring, but not the action. One Seattle goal was waved off for offside. An L.A, shot on goal was tapped onto the crossbar by Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
There was an element of error in all the first-half goals. For Seattle, Dempsey simply tapped in a bad clearance by Omar Gonzalez. Valdez took an Andreas Ivanschitz free kick on a short hop, while Los Angeles goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts was slow to react. For Los Angeles, Lletget seemed to run onto a ball that wasn’t intentionally played to him. The Zardes goal deflected into a top corner off of Valdez.
Seattle began taking control in the second half, finally leading to the game winner from Friberg. The play began with a pop fly of an attempted clearance by A.J. DeLaGarza. Friberg beat everyone to it, and instantly redirected to ball into the back of the net.
The Sounders held on after that, with Frei providing a key save against Zardes in the 82nd minute.
The Sounders played without defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, who had hobbled off the pitch Sunday with an undisclosed injury. However, DP/midfielder Nelson Valdez returned to the lineup after missing three games with a calf injury.