SEATTLE - Maxime Crepeau’s play in goal allowed Denis Bouanga’s one moment of scoring magic to be enough to send Los Angeles FC one step closer to defending its MLS Cup title.
Bouanga scored his fourth goal of the MLS Cup playoffs in the 30th minute, Crepeau made seven saves, and defending champion LAFC advanced to the Western Conference final with a 1-0 win over the Seattle Sounders on Sunday night.
Bouanga got one chance at goal and didn’t miss, scoring in his sixth straight game and sending LAFC home for the conference championship game against the Houston Dynamo next Saturday.
"To win big games you need players having big performances. Denis had a moment tonight. Our center backs battled like warriors all night and Max came up big for us too," LAFC coach Steve Cherundolo said.
LAFC is trying to become the first back-to-back champion since the LA Galaxy in 2011-12. And while Bouanga had the lone goal, it was Crepeau who had the most important moment of the match.
Crepeau’s big night started almost immediately as he pushed aside Josh Atencio’s left-footed shot from the top of the penalty area in the opening moments. He had a better save in the fourth minute when Jordan Morris outran Giorgio Chiellini on a breakaway, but Crepeau quickly left his net and was able to swat Morris’ chip attempt.
"I told Max ... when he made that save, in my head I was like, ‘It’s over. We just won the game,’" LAFC defender Ryan Hollingshead said. "That kind of momentum shift when they’ve got a clear chance and a goal scorer like Jordan ... He doesn’t miss many of those and it’s just a testament to Max standing him up, making him make a decision."
Seattle pressed in the final 20 minutes and Crepeau answered every attempt by the Sounders, denying shots from distance by Alex Roldan, Joao Paulo and Albert Rusnak’s chance in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
"As a goalkeeper it’s the kind of game that you like because actions after actions and sometimes you need to be alert and ready for your team," Crepeau said.
Bouanga was the Golden Boot winner during the regular season with 20 goals and he added three more in LAFC’s opening round victory over Vancouver. His goal came despite Seattle controlling play for most of the first half and having two great chances in the opening five minutes.
Bouanga’s shot was the only attempt LAFC put on goal in the first half and it finished with only two shots on target in the match.
They were fortunate to have Crepeau on the other end.
The Sounders 19-game playoff unbeaten streak at home came to an end. Seattle had not lost a home playoff match since losing to Portland in the 2013 postseason.
"If Jordan scores that goal maybe this press conference is different," Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer said. "They made plays and unfortunately we couldn’t in the critical moments."