Reporting from Seattle — By the time the Galaxy's charter flight from Seattle was scheduled to touch down in Los Angeles early Monday, much of what had happened hours earlier likely would be forgotten.
Blame that on the convoluted rules governing the MLS playoffs, which gave the Galaxy little reward for its 1-0 win over the Sounders in the opening match of the Western Conference semifinals Sunday night. Or credit the team's veteran leadership, which has kept the Galaxy focused on the ultimate prize, the MLS Cup, while refusing to celebrate the incremental steps it will take to get it there.
Either way, much work remains to be done.
The winner of Galaxy's two-match series with Seattle will be determined by aggregate goals, meaning the Sounders are down but certainly not out heading into Sunday's rematch at the Home Depot Center.
"Right now, we're down at halftime," Seattle Coach Sigi Schmid said. "We've got a second half to play in L.A., and everything's still possible for us."
The Galaxy, meanwhile, is up by a goal — which is a much better position to be in. Hold the Sounders to a tie next week, and the Galaxy advances.
"We're happy with tonight. But this is far from over," midfielder David Beckham said. "We now have to do a job at home."
And it's a job that was made a bit easier thanks to a remarkable goal from Edson Buddle and an equally remarkable game from goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.
The only score came late in the first half after defender Omar Gonzalez won the ball in the Seattle zone and delivered a short pass toward Buddle that took a perfect bounce off the slick FieldTurf. Although he was well outside the penalty area, Buddle right-footed a volley toward the goal 35 yards away, lofting the ball over the head of surprised keeper Kasey Keller and into the far corner of the net.
"A fortunate goal," Schmid said.
Not really, said Buddle, who finished second in the regular-season scoring race with 17 goals.
"When I shoot, it's a score," he kidded, smiling. "The ball bounced up perfectly. I took my chances and it went in."
But if not for Ricketts, the Galaxy could have been out of the game — and probably the series — before any of that. Although defenders Sean Franklin and A.J. DeLaGarza did a good job slowing the speedy Sounders attack, striker Fredy Montero and midfielder Steve Zakuani still got plenty of good chances. The best two came from Montero just seconds apart midway through the first half, with Ricketts first pushing a left-footed shot wide before stepping in front of a well-struck header.
Ricketts, who had as many as six saves in a game just twice this season, made seven saves in the first half alone Sunday, He made one more stop in the second half, on a breakaway attempt by Nate Jaqua with three minutes left in regulation, to preserve his 12th shutout of the season.
"Sometimes I just have to work for my paycheck," Ricketts said. "And tonight was a night I worked for my paycheck."
It's not the last one he hopes to cash this fall, however. So as he dressed in the Galaxy's quiet locker room Sunday night, Ricketts was counting the number of wins, not saves, he'll need to get the Galaxy back to the league championship match.
"We did nothing," he said. "Our goal is the MLS Cup. This is just one step closer. So we keep working."