Edson Buddle floated a long shot over Kasey Keller and into the top left corner midway through the 38th minute on Sunday, giving the Los Angeles Galaxy a 1-0 victory against the Seattle Sounders on Sunday in the first game of Major League Soccer's Western Conference semifinals.
Buddle got his third career playoff goal and his first with the Galaxy. His 17 regular-season goals were second in MLS this year.
"I don't think anyone thought I would shoot from there — that's why I shot it," Buddle said.
Los Angeles, winner of the Supporters Shield for best record in the league, will host the second game in the two-game aggregate-goals series is next Sunday in Carson, Calif.
Defender Omar Gonzalez started the Galaxy's scoring play with a short pass to Buddle, who launched a shot from 30 yards out that went just over Keller's outstretched hands.
"Omar got a good clearance on the ball, I saw that developing, I was able to get a turn on the ball," Buddle said. "It bounced perfect, and I took a shot."
Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, who finished with eight saves, was impressed by his teammate's goal.
"He scored against a world-class goalkeeper," Ricketts said. "I don't think I could have saved that, either."
Ricketts had seven saves in the first half, stopping Freddy Montero twice in 30 seconds — flying to his left to deny one shot, then leaping to tip Montero's header over the crossbar on the ensuing corner kick.
Ricketts' final save of the night came in the 87th minute when he stopped a 1-on-1 try by Nate Jaqua.
"All of the credit to my defence. They smothered the Seattle attack," Ricketts said. "Whatever I had to do, I did, just to keep my team in the game."
The Sounders, who made the playoffs last year as an expansion team but then went scoreless for all 210 minutes of the Western Conference semifinals against Houston, were kept off the board again despite a 15-10 advantage on shots.
Seattle thought it had broken through just 32 seconds in to the game when Steve Zakuani, playing a yard outside the six-yard box, put in the rebound of Osvaldo Alonso's shot. But it was nullified by an offside call.
"When you weigh the whole game, I thought we created more chances than they did," Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. "Donovan came up with a couple big saves in the first half. But in the second half, I think we squandered some chances — that shot that Steve Zakuani had [bounce off left post in the 64th minute] and Jaqua's chance at the end.
"If we finish better and Donovan doesn't have the game he has, we walk off this field 2-1 or 3-1 winners."
Los Angeles will host the second game in the two-game aggregate-goals series next Sunday in Carson, Calif. A win or a tie sends the Galaxy to the conference finals. The Sounders would have to win by two goals to advance, or win by one to force series overtime.
"It was a pretty classic playoff game where you get a goal on the road and you're defending and you try to get out of here. That's basically what we did," Los Angeles coach Bruce Arena said. "We've got to play to win [next week]."
Keller was credited with four saves, but was lamenting the one he didn't make.
"It's just one of those things that guys try a hundred times in their career and never make it happen," Keller said of Buddle's shot. "And the one time he got it to go [was] in a big game. Great goals change games, and that's part of it."