SEATTLE — 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 2011 Major League Soccer season with a 1-0 win over the Sounders on a rainy Tuesday night.
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.
It was the first time in Seattle's three seasons that the Sounders lost their opener, which has also served as opening night for the league in each season.
Los Angeles has won five straight over Seattle in MLS games, having outscored Seattle 11-2 during those, including a playoff win over Seattle last year.
The Galaxy beat Seattle 4-0 last May in the regular season, a loss that prompted Seattle's management to offer refunds to season ticket holders who renewed for the 2011 season.
Tuesday night wasn't that embarrassing for the home club, but was far from the way Seattle wanted to start with a brutal opening stretch that includes a match Saturday at New York before hosting Houston next Friday.
And the hits for Seattle started before the match even began when it was announced that striker and designated player Blaise Nkufo and the team had decided to cut ties. Nkufo signed with Seattle in early 2010 then joined the team after playing for Switzerland in the World Cup in South Africa.
The team announced the decision as a mutual agreement while the league and Nkufo's representatives work out his status.
With Nkufo gone, White got the start at the top of Seattle's attack but failed on his two best scoring opportunities. In the 24th minute, Steve Zakuani made a run along the end line and centered back to White in the middle of the box. White was caught off guard, got tangled with Friberg and couldn't get a clean shot.
Later in the half, White got a clear shot from the top of the penalty area only to shoot directly at Saunders.
Los Angeles was also short-handed, playing without new striker Juan Pablo Angel, star defender Omar Gonzalez and starting goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, all three remaining behind in Los Angeles. Angel was ill, while Gonzalez (shoulder) and Ricketts (hamstring) were out with injuries.
It was also the start of what could be David Beckham's final MLS go-round. Beckham's contract expires at the end of the season. He was loudly booed every time he touched the ball and spent much of the match on the wing calling for crosses from his teammates, many of which never arrived.
Beckham was given a yellow card for a hard tackle in second-half stoppage time.