Football: Lights out for Gerrard's star-studded Galaxy in play-offs opener

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Los Angeles Galaxy's bid for a record sixth Major League Soccer Cup crown came to a juddering halt on Wednesday night, as the reigning champions suffered a season-ending 3-2 defeat by the Seattle Sounders in the opening round of the play-offs.

A star-studded Galaxy side featuring former England and Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard and Ireland international Robbie Keane paid the price for a shoddy defensive display.

"Christmas came early in Seattle. We absolutely gift-wrapped that game," said Galaxy coach Bruce Arena.

Seattle twice took the lead in the first half through Clint Dempsey and Nelson Valdez, before the Galaxy levelled through Sebastian Lletget and US international Gyasi Zardes.

But a second-half goal from Swedish midfielder Erik Friberg clinched victory for Seattle at a rain-swept CenturyLink Field, also home of the Seattle Seahawks National Football League team.

"This is just the beginning of our journey. This isn't the end... we want to keep going," said Sounders coach Sigi Schmid.

A remarkable start to the game saw four goals in the first 22 minutes as both sides threw caution to the wind in an open, attacking contest.

Dempsey fired Seattle into the lead after only five minutes, punishing a dreadful blunder by Galaxy's Jamaican goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, who spilled a straight-forward cross allowing the former Fulham striker to score.

But barely a minute later and the Galaxy were level through Lletget, the striker coolly sweeping home the equalizer after good work by Zardes and Mexican international Giovani dos Santos.

The frenetic opening continued in the 12th minute, when Seattle went 2-1 up through Valdez.

Valdez, one of the stars of Paraguay's run to the semi-finals of the Copa America in June, finished from close range after another piece of uncertain goalkeeping from Ricketts, who fatally hesitated to approach a deep free kick.

Los Angeles responded strongly however and captain Keane crashed a shot off the cross bar on 21 minutes.

Moments later they drew level at 2-2 when Zardes saw his shot from outside the area take a wicked deflection and fly into the top corner.

The two sides finished the half level and began the second 45 minutes more cautiously.

But the decisive moment came on 73 minutes when more poor defending from the Galaxy presented Friberg with a chance he did not pass up.

A succession of Galaxy defenders failed to deal with a cross into the box and when the loose ball fell invitingly to Friberg, the Swede made no mistake and thumped in a volley past Ricketts for 3-2.

In the night's other game, DC United advanced to the next round with an 83rd-minute strike from leading goal-scorer Chris Rolfe, to complete a 2-1 comeback win over the New England Revolution at RFK Stadium.