SEATTLE (AP) — Eddie Johnson and Zach Scott scored to give Seattle a 2-0 lead, but Robbie Keane was awarded and converted a penalty kick in the 68th minute on Sunday night that clinched the Los Angeles Galaxy’s 4-2 aggregate victory over the Sounders in the Western Conference finals and a spot in the MLS Cup final for the second straight year.
Seattle staged a rally trying to come back from a 3-0 deficit after getting overwhelmed in the first leg of the Western Conference finals last week.
And they were on the verge after Johnson’s early goal and Scott’s header in the 58th minute pulled Seattle within one on aggregate.
But referee Mark Geiger, who had been the subject of complaints all night from both sides, called Seattle defender Adam Johansson for a handball in the penalty box and Keane converted his fifth goal of the playoffs.
Los Angeles will host the final on Dec. 1 against Houston, a rematch of last year’s final won by the Galaxy.
For the second straight year, Seattle’s season ended because it was unable to make up a three-goal deficit in the second leg at home.
Seattle’s frustration boiled over after the final whistle when Johnson and Osvaldo Alonso both confronted Geiger at midfield while the Galaxy celebrated.
Seattle came out with aggressiveness absent in the first leg when it seemed content to try and pull out a tie and ended up in a 3-0 hole.
In the first nine minutes, Seattle had two corner kicks and a dangerous free kick from just outside the box. Johnson got free for a shot from the top of the penalty area but it went flying over the crossbar.
In the 11th minute, Johnson appeared to get Seattle the lead off a quick pass by Christian Tiffert, but was disallowed as Johnson was offside.
Television replays showed Johnson was onside when the pass was played and the goal should have counted, but it became a moot point moments later.
Scott won a free ball in midfield and sent it ahead to Johnson, who got position on Omar Gonzalez and scored with a left-footed blast giving Seattle a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute.
Seattle continued to press for chances, but was unable to draw any closer by halftime. Los Angeles nearly got a decisive break just before halftime when Mike Magee’s shot was blocked in the penalty box and appeared to hit the arm of Seattle’s Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, but Geiger immediate waived off any handball call.
Scott scored on a diving header just at the beginning of a corner kick that Tiffert smartly played toward the near post.
It was just the eighth goal for Seattle in MLS play off set pieces all season and gave Seattle more than 30 minutes to try and equalize.
But the handball ended all those hopes and re-established a two-goal cushion and silenced a crowd of 44,575, the largest for a non-final in MLS playoff history and the sixth largest for any MLS playoff game. Keane had two goals and an assist in the first leg.
Josh Saunders played well in goal for Los Angeles, including a key save of David Estrada’s point-blank shot in the 90th minute.
Los Angeles was without midfielder Landon Donovan, bothered by tightness in his hamstring.
He’ll get nearly two more weeks of rest before Los Angeles goes after a second straight title. It will be their third appearance in the final in the past four seasons.
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