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Galaxy's road to the 2014 MLS championship

Galaxy's road to the 2014 MLS championship

WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINAL

Nov. 1: Galaxy 0, at Real Salt Lake 0

The road to a fifth MLS title started off rocky for the Galaxy, with a scoreless tie that felt more like a loss after a foul-filled game on a cold and windy night in Utah. Despite the outcome, goalkeeper Jaime Penedo's performance buoyed the Galaxy's spirits. Penedo made 16 saves, including two point-blank stops on shots by Joao Plata. Real Salt Lake's Nick Rimando had a much quieter game, making three saves. The Galaxy had chances. Gyasi Zardes seemingly scored late in the first half but was ruled offside. A prime scoring opportunity in the second half fizzled when Robbie Keane waited too long to make a cross pass to a streaking Zardes off a four-on-two counterattack. Despite the shortcomings, the Galaxy exuded a level of certainty that the second leg would yield a different result. "We're confident that at home we can go and score goals," Landon Donovan said.

Nov. 9: At Galaxy 5, Real Salt Lake 0

Needing a victory to extend the Galaxy's season and his career, Donovan put in an inspired performance, becoming the first player since 1999 to score three goals in an MLS playoff game. It ended at five weeks a scoreless spell by Donovan and ended Real Salt Lake's shutout streak at 413 minutes. Donovan opened the scoring in the 10th minute and got the Galaxy's third goal early in the second half. He scored in the 72nd minute to extend his MLS playoff record to 25 goals in 38 games. He assisted on Keane's first-half goal. Keane had three second-half assists and Marcelo Sarvas scored in the rout. Donovan received a standing ovation from the crowd of 27,000. "A night like tonight, when people are playing that way and things are clicking, it's fun," Donovan said. "You don't want the game to end."

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL

Nov. 23: At Galaxy 1, Seattle 0

The specter of a rough-and-tumble game was anticipated by the Galaxy against the team with the league's best record. Embracing captain Keane's attitude of "you have to give as good as you get" to match the Sounders' physical style, the Galaxy won a game that featured 25 fouls and four yellow cards. Sarvas was the hero, scoring seven minutes into the second half after a well-aimed pass from A.J. DeLaGarza that he ricocheted into the net off the hip of goalkeeper Chad Marshall. Penedo had a relatively easy time but came up big for the Galaxy in the 20th minute. He made a spectacular save on a shot by Obafemi Martins before quickly getting back up and blocking a rebound shot by Clint Dempsey. Playing without standouts Osvaldo Alonso (injury) and Lamar Neagle (personal issue) limited Seattle's ability to take offensive risks in the second half.

Nov. 30: At Seattle 2, Galaxy 1

Winning at CenturyLink Field was never going to be easy, but the Galaxy had helped its cause by shutting out Seattle in the opener of the two-leg playoff. The Galaxy lost in Seattle, but advanced to the title game by taking advantage of a new rule that made road goals the primary tiebreaker for playoff aggregate goals. The Galaxy's ninth MLS Cup appearance was secured in the 54th minute when Juninho charged between two defenders and bounced a shot off the goal post and into the net after a corner kick by Donovan. It was Juninho's first goal in 14 months. The goal cut Seattle's lead in half after Brad Evans and Dempsey each scored over a six-minute span in the first half. "It was just a matter of grinding it out and having the right mentality," Coach Bruce Arena said. "We knew the rules."

MLS CUP

Dec. 7: At Galaxy 2, New England 1, OT

The Galaxy entered the matchup with the Revolution as the clear favorite, but little was certain until Keane scored in the second half of overtime. After a relatively conservative performance by both teams in the first half, the Galaxy made positioning adjustments at halftime. At Keane's behest, Arena moved Zardes to midfield. The move reaped rewards quickly when Zardes scored in the 52nd minute off a quick counterattack orchestrated by Stefan Ishizaki. The game's pace picked up considerably, and New England's Chris Tierney tied the score with 11 minutes left in regulation. Keane's winning goal in the 111th minute came off a feed by Sarvas, allowing the league MVP to sprint into the 18-yard box and fire a right-footed blast past goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth. Keane's 21st goal of the season allowed Donovan to end his career as a winner and it secured an unprecedented fifth MLS title for the Galaxy.

austin.knoblauch@latimes.com

Twitter: @AustinKnob

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