A lone, headed goal from Alan Gordon in the 23rd minute decided this 2014 MLS Western Conference final rematch, as the L.A. Galaxy edged the Sounders 1-0 on Sunday afternoon at the StubHub Center.

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CARSON, Calif. – A lone, headed goal from Alan Gordon in the 23rd minute decided this 2014 MLS Western Conference final rematch, as the L.A. Galaxy edged the Sounders 1-0 on Sunday afternoon at the StubHub Center.

These are my first impressions:

– Late scratches robbed the game of its two biggest names

The last four competitive matches that Seattle and L.A. played against each other were so infused with hype and meaning that Sunday’s playoff rematch was always going to feel a bit underwhelming. These two teams played out an unprecedented season-ending home-and-home to decide the Supporters’ Shield just last October, after all, and the conference final was a throw-down from start to finish.

An early-April matchup at the time of year when most squads are just trying to find themselves was never going to live up to that level.

But it didn’t help matters when the captain of the United States men’s national team and the defending MLS MVP were surprising injury scratches an hour before kickoff.

Seattle forward Clint Dempsey is battling a left hamstring strain and didn’t even make the trip, the Sounders confirmed, and L.A. counterpart Robbie Keane missed out with what is being reported as a groin injury.

The game was in some ways more entertaining than the ones at the end of last season, looser and less weighed down by the stakes. But it certainly missed the influence of the two star strikers.

– Jaime Penedo was on fire

Yes, a lot of Seattle’s shots were fortuitously down the pipe. But a goalkeeper racking up 10 saves en route to a shutout is no joke.

Penedo tipped a goal-bound Lamar Neagle over the bar early and picked the ball off Aaron Kovar’s foot late. He was in the right place at the right time and turned on the acrobatics when necessary.

The defining image of the match came 56 minutes in, after Penedo got low to save Neagle’s shot at the near post and the Galaxy hacked the rebound clear before the forward could pounce.

Neagle had threatened all afternoon, nearly scored both with his head and off the dribble. After yet another near miss, Neagle leaned on the side netting, grabbing it with both fists.

“What do I have to do to beat this guy?” read the thought bubble coming out of Neagle’s head. The Sounders never found out the answer.

– That was a possible glimpse into Seattle’s lineup of future

For a lineup whose average age usually creeps up near 30, starting both 19-year-old Cristian Roldan on the wing and 23-year-old Dylan Remick in defense was significant. Even replacing the suspended Gonzalo Pineda with 25-year-old Andy Rose almost qualifies as a youth movement.

Seattle didn’t always see the majority of the ball, but it looked comfortable when it did. Both Roldan and Rose created chances as the Sounders forced Penedo into a series of early saves. Roldan really found his rhythm in the second half, dribbling through defenders and first picking out Obafemi Martins, then Marco Pappa.

Remick was targeted early and often by Stefan Ishizaki and more than held his own, winning one-on-one duels and blocking aside cross attempts.

There’s room for improvement – see: the final score – but there were promising signs out of Seattle’s young core.