CARSON, Calif. — Sounders FC’s worst nightmare was relived Sunday.
The Los Angeles Galaxy’s high-powered attack struck just before halftime and added two second-half goals in head-spinning fashion to take a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference finals in front of 27,000 at The Home Depot Center.
The second leg of the two-game, aggregate-goals series is Nov. 18 at CenturyLink Field, and Seattle needs a four-goal win to advance to MLS Cup. A three-goal win would send the game into overtime.
Once again, a fine season has been pushed to the brink by one dreadful performance.
The same scenario happened in the last year’s conference semifinals, when the Sounders went down 3-0 to Real Salt Lake on the road in the first leg and eventually lost 3-2 on aggregate.
“I don’t think they’re three goals better than us,” coach Sigi Schmid said, “but tonight they were.”
Seattle has never won the first leg of a playoff series in five tries (0-3-2).
“Everyone just has to take a look at themselves in the mirror and ask, ‘Did I do enough tonight?’ “ said forward Eddie Johnson.
“There are a million other teams that are out of the playoffs right now that would love to be in our position. We just beat one of the best teams at their place with hard work and commitment and dedication, and we didn’t see that tonight”
The rout started in stoppage time of the first half, when Robbie Keane scored the first of his two goals by heading in a cross from Landon Donovan at the far post as goalkeeper Michael Gspurning scrambled to cover an open goal.
While a deflating blow just before halftime, the play ended the Sounders’ playoff shutout streak at 315 dating to the first leg of a 2010 conference semifinal against RSL.
It got worse in the second half.
Galaxy midfielder Mike Magee made it 2-0 in the 64th minute on a lethal counterattack, and three minutes later, Keane tapped in another goal after a defensive breakdown by the Sounders.
The goal was Keane’s fourth this postseason and his 16th in MLS (regular season and playoffs) since the end of June. Donovan has 12 postseason assists.
“At the end of the day it was the quality, I think, of their two strikers,” Schmid said of the pair. “You have to take your hat off to them.”
LA had opportunities to take a four-goal lead a couple times as Seattle desperately pushed to pull a goal back.
The best chance came in the 71st minute, but Gspurning made a wonderful diving save on a shot by Marcelo Sarvas. Donovan nearly sneaked in a goal in the 76th minute, but defender Jeff Parke cleared a slow-rolling ball off the goal line.
“There could’ve been a lot more,” Parke said. “We didn’t create enough chances and they created a lot.”
The Sounders will take some solace that they’ve beaten the Galaxy 4-0 at home this season, an Aug. 5 blowout at CenturyLink Field.
But this comeback would be historic.
“We’ve put four up on ‘em before, so it’s nothing that we haven’t done,” Parke said, “but we definitely have to be on our game and a lot better than we were tonight. It’s frustrating, it’s disappointing, but we have to forget about it and move on.”
Rosales and defender Leo Gonzalez were not available due to hamstring injuries but are expected to be ready for the second leg.
The Sounders had outscored the Galaxy, 6-1, in the regular season, winning two of three games. LA won the conference semifinal between the two teams in 2010 by a 3-1 aggregate score.