Seattle makes conference final debut against Galaxy

Seattle Sounders FC will be making its first appearance in the Western Conference finals on Sunday when the club takes on defending champions Los Angeles Galaxy at The Home Depot Center.

Seattle made the playoffs in its first three seasons in MLS, but failed to win a series until this year, dispatching second-seeded Real Salt Lake on aggregate, 1-0.

The two teams played to a 0-0 draw in the first leg at CenturyLink Field, but an 81st-minute goal from Seattle's Mario Martinez was the difference in Salt Lake.

"We needed to get over this hump and winning this game is really important for our development as a team," Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid said after Thursday's win. "The setbacks in year's past have fueled this. Getting over this hurdle today will do oodles for our confidence and will really help us as we go on to the next series."

While Seattle is making its first appearance in the conference final, the Galaxy has plenty of experience on the big stage, having reached this point for the fourth time in as many seasons.

The Galaxy came from a goal down at home to beat Vancouver, 2-1, in the knockout round before overturning a 1-0 first-leg deficit against Supporters' Shield winners San Jose.

Los Angeles became the first side to win at Buck Shaw Stadium this season, bouncing San Jose from the playoffs with a 3-1 win.

Bruce Arena's team looked like anything but defending champions in the first three months of the season, winning just three of 13 games.

However, Arena believes that since July there has been no better team in MLS than his Galaxy side.

"We've been the best team in this league since July," Arena said. "I'm happy nobody's noticed that, which is always good. We were able to hide under the radar a little bit."

After just three losses over the final 17 MLS games for the Galaxy, Arena's team will have a tough time sneaking up anyone.

Seattle won the first two meetings between the two sides during the regular season by a combined score of 6-0, while the Galaxy claimed a 1-0 triumph against the Sounders in the final contest.

Los Angeles is bidding to become the first team since the Houston Dynamo in 2006-07 to repeat as MLS Cup champions, but they will be up against a Seattle side that has yielded two goals in its past seven games.

The second leg will take place on Nov. 18 at Seattle.