By the time the final whistle blew on Sunday's MLS playoff game at the Home Depot Center, it's likely few people were more familiar with the Galaxy than Seattle Coach Sigi Schmid.
Not only did the Sounders played the Galaxy twice in the last eight days, but Schmid spent countless hours watching the team on film. So when the Galaxy ended Seattle's season with a 2-1 win in a Western Conference semifinal match-up, Schmid's opinion clearly carried some weight.
"A lot of their players are very committed to 'this is the year,' " he said. "You've got guys who are retiring. You've got guys who will be disappointed in not winning the championship. You've got guys coming back from injury. Everybody knows their role, everybody does their role."
That's bad news for FC Dallas, the Galaxy's opponent in next weekend's conference final, the last hurdle between the Galaxy and a return to the MLS Cup.
After all, there were long stretches of the first half Sunday in which the Galaxy played as well as it has this season, impressive when you consider the Galaxy had the league's best record.
"In a game of this magnitude, this time of year, I'm pleased with it," Coach Bruce Arena said. "Whether it's the best we've played, I don't know. But it was certainly good enough."
More than good enough, actually. Under the MLS format, the first round of the playoffs is a home-and-home series determined by aggregate goals over the two games. And since the Galaxy won the opener, 1-0, in Seattle, it needed only a tie to move on.
But Arena's team, playing in front of a sellout crowd of 27,000, came out attacking nevertheless, scoring twice in the first 27 minutes off set pieces that started with David Beckham.
The first was a corner kick from the right side that Edson Buddle, dipping between two defenders, managed to head into the back of the net in the 19th minute. The second came on a free kick from about 30 yards to the left of the net that bent perfectly to Omar Gonzalez, who also headed it past goalkeeper Kasey Keller.
Schmid credited Beckham with some gamesmanship on the first goal, saying that the corner should have been taken from the other side. But when Beckham picked up the ball and headed toward the right touchline, referee Baldomero Toledo didn't stop him, Schmid said.
Beckham challenged that, saying he would have preferred to kick from the left but Toledo pointed him to the right corner. Either way, the side probably didn't matter, Beckham said. The Galaxy had four corner kicks in the first half and he said it was only a matter of time before one of them produced a goal.
"I had a feeling one was coming," he said. "I put the ball in the right place a few times and … we was unlucky. One was going to come. It's the law of averages."
For most of Sunday it looked as if one goal would be enough given the way the Galaxy played on defense, denying the Sounders space in the center of the field, collapsing around its midfielders and disrupting Seattle's offensive flow.
Steve Zakuani finally broke through in the 86th minute, cutting the Galaxy lead in half when he left-footed a shot from inside the box off goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts' hands and into the back of the net, ending the Sounders' postseason scoreless streak at 385 minutes, dating to last season.
That did nothing to change the outcome, surprising given that the MLS playoffs have not been kind to its top-seeded teams with New York and Columbus, the top two teams in the Eastern Conference, and Real Salt Lake, the second-winningest team in the league, all going out in the first round.
"These games are hard to plan, as evidenced by this past week," said Arena, who complained that the Galaxy, the only team to avoid a playoff upset, has yet to get the credit he believes it deserves.
"We know that it's going to be a real tough game. I don't think there are any favorites. If there were favorites, none of them are around."