MLS Features: Sounders stumble against Galaxy, again

( - For the first 32 minutes on Sunday at CenturyLink Field it finally looked like Seattle would overcome its nemesis, the Los Angeles Galaxy.

After being knocked out of the postseason at the hands of Bruce Arena's team in 2010 and 2012, Seattle was looking at the Western Conference finals as a chance to finally exorcise those demons.

The Sounders found themselves down 1-0 after the first leg in Los Angeles, but the team seemed to seize all the momentum on Sunday with two goals in the span of six first-half minutes, including a potentially demoralizing second goal that saw Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo allow a shot from Clint Dempsey to slip through his hands and find its way over the goal line.

Yet after that goal the Sounders failed to build on their lead and put Los Angeles away, allowing the Galaxy to hang around until the 54th minute when a lightning bolt from Juninho found the back of the Seattle net.

That goal put the Galaxy in position to advance on the away goals rule and it sucked the life out of CenturyLink Field, leaving Sounders fans with that all- too familiar feeling of coming up short once again.

Outside of a late chance from Dempsey, Seattle was never able to quite recover from that punch to the gut provided by Juninho, and the club must now once again reflect on a season that ended just a little too early.

Without a doubt there will be plenty of disappointment in Seattle, but head coach Sigi Schmid was able to see a bigger picture regarding this season, which saw his team capture its fourth U.S. Open Cup in six years while also adding the first Supporters' Shield in club history to the trophy cabinet.

"I'm going to see [this team] as a team that accomplished a hell of a lot," Schmid said after Sunday's match.

"I'm really proud of our team. I'm proud of their effort, I'm proud of their fight to the very end. We've won five trophies now in six years. There aren't a lot of clubs that have [accomplished that] in this league."

In fact, most clubs in MLS would be thrilled just to have five trophies in their MLS existence, let alone in the span of six years.

Not only have the Sounders built the best fan base in the league, but the team has been the definition of consistency, reaching the postseason under Schmid's direction each year while winning at least 12 games during the regular season.

Compare that to the existence of Toronto FC, which joined the league two years prior to the Sounders and has yet to reach the postseason, while having failed to win more than 11 games in any season.

A comparison to a league doormat like Toronto might not offer much in the way of consolation for the Sounders, but it is important to keep in perspective what the club has managed to accomplish in its brief time in MLS.

After all the success the team has enjoyed in the U.S. Open Cup it was a big step forward for Seattle to be able to capture the Supporters' Shield, which the team clinched, ironically enough, on the final weekend of the season with a 2-0 win over the Galaxy.

"Supporters' Shield is nice, it's great because it is a reflection of the whole season, it shows we were the best team over the whole season," Schmid said. "Unfortunately it decides that the MLS Cup winner is the top team. That's a mountain we haven't climbed yet - I thought for sure this could be our year to climb that mountain. I thought we were very close to it."

Seattle has come close to climbing that mountain before, and this season was nearly a historic one as the Sounders attempted to become the first team in MLS to capture the treble, winning U.S. Open Cup, the Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup.

But after crossing off the first two items from that list, Seattle once again came up against a Galaxy side that was a little more experienced and had more of a playoff pedigree, which proved to be the difference in getting the team to its third MLS Cup in four years.

Seattle may have come up short once again in its quest for MLS Cup, but as the team looks back at its 2014 campaign, it will do so with a feeling of accomplishment, despite the fact that, once again, Los Angeles prevented the Sounders from reaching the top of the mountain.