Sounders FC

Sounders drop first leg of conference championship, 1-0, to Los Angeles

Marcelo Sarvas scored in the 52nd minute, and the LA Galaxy opened the Western Conference championship with a 1-0 victory over the Seattle Sounders on Sunday.

Jaime Penedo posted his third straight shutout for the Galaxy, who still haven't conceded a playoff goal this season. Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and the Galaxy also haven't lost at home since their season opener in March, and they kept the Supporters' Shield-winning Sounders off the scoresheet in a tense, chippy match.

The clubs play their second leg Nov. 30 on Seattle's artificial turf. The Galaxy could advance with a variety of results, since the tiebreaker is away goals.

The winner hosts the MLS Cup on Dec. 7.

Seattle played without forward Lamar Neagle, who left the team "to deal with a serious personal matter," according to a statement. The Sounders also didn't have midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, who sat with a hamstring injury.

The Sounders and the Galaxy were clearly MLS' two best teams in the regular season, which ended with a home-and-home series between the powers last month after LA nearly rallied all the way back to the top of the table. But the Sounders overcame a two-goal deficit to tie the clubs' match at Carson before clinching the Supporters' Shield with a win at home.

Both teams struggled to finish chances in an up-and-down first half, but traded hard fouls and shoves with their usual physical style. Penedo made two spectacular saves on Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey midway through the half, while Keane and Robbie Rogers barely missed golden chances on the other end.

The Galaxy finally scored when A.J. De La Garza got it into the box for Sarvas, whose shot deflected off Chad Marshall and past Stefan Frei for his second postseason goal.

After LA's Stefan Ishizaki put a free kick off Frei's crossbar moments later, De La Garza left the game with hamstring pain. Sarvas also was helped off the field in pain in the 68th minute, appearing to favor his left leg.

Donovan had a quiet afternoon following his hat trick in the LA's clinching 5-0 victory over Real Salt Lake in the last round. The Galaxy ran much of their offense through Ishizaki, while Donovan and Keane couldn't convert their few chances.

Obafemi and Dempsey both had a handful of opportunities, but the Galaxy hung on to their blank sheet.