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Seattle opens MLS season with home loss to Los Angeles

SEATTLE – Even short-handed, the Los Angeles Galaxy continued their hex on the Seattle Sounders.

Even on opening night of the Major League Soccer season that’s served as Seattle’s stage the last two years.

Los Angeles midfielder Juninho beat Seattle goalkeeper Kasey Keller on a 25-yard shot inside the near post in the 58th minute, and the Galaxy opened the 16th MLS season with a 1-0 win over the Sounders on a rainy Tuesday night.

While most of the attention was placed on the pregame news that Seattle had cut ties with designated player Blaise Nkufo, the Galaxy were also short to begin the 2011 season.

New striker Juan Pablo Angel, starting centerback Omar Gonzalez and starting goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts all stayed behind in Los Angeles with various ailments. Angel was ill, while Gonzalez (shoulder) and Ricketts (hamstring) were injured.

It didn’t matter. The Galaxy won their fifth straight match with Seattle in MLS play.

“My guess is there’s not another team in our league that would go without two starting centerbacks and starting goalie and one of their starting forwards and win here,” Los Angeles midfielder Landon Donovan said. “We’re very proud of that, but obviously it’s early.”

Take away a stripped down Galaxy roster that lost to Seattle in last year’s U.S. Open Cup and the Sounders haven’t registered points against Los Angeles since a 2-0 win on the road in August 2009. The Galaxy dispatched Seattle from last year’s MLS Cup playoffs.

“I don’t think people realize how difficult it is to beat a team in this league, a playoff team in this league five times in a row, three of which are on their home field, three of which are on what everyone would say is the best homefield advantage in our league,” Donovan said.

Having watched Seattle control play for the better part of 45 minutes, the Galaxy struck with a quick counterattack off a careless turnover by Seattle midfielder Erik Friberg. His pass was intercepted by Todd Dunivant who carried into open space and laid off a pass for Juninho.

The Brazilian then swerved a long shot that Keller got his hands on but couldn’t push wide of the post.

Seattle had plenty of chances to draw even, the best coming in the 72nd minute when O’Brian White redirected Steve Zakuani’s cross, only to see it bounce wide of the far post.

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