Skip to content

MLS playoff preview: Los Angeles Galaxy at Seattle Sounders

Nov 17, 2012, 6:30 PM EST

Portland Timbers v Seattle Sounders Getty Images

Ordinarily, concocting a realistic scenario in which the champs would throw away a glistening three-goal margin – especially these champs, the Galaxy, who relish the chance to sit back and look to break hearts on the counter – would read like a real stretch.

And in the end, it certainly may be that a 3-0 lead is just too much to overcome for Seattle in this second leg of Sunday’s Western Conference final, the back end of a total goals series.

But Seattle does have a pocket full of hope, and it’s hardly false hope. There is genuine reason to like Seattle’s chances in this one – just a little bit, at least.

Either way, a spot in the 17th MLS Cup is on the line – and quite possibly host duties, too.

MLS Western Conference finals

Sunday’s Kickoff: CenturyLink Field, Seattle, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN

(Official league preview is here)

On the Seattle Sounders

  • Let’s talk about those Sounders’ reasons for hope: they start at a pair of decisive, confidence-inspiring wins over the Galaxy in 2012, one of the “real butt whuppin” variety. That was the 4-0 margin from Sigi Schmind’s men in August, when Fredy Montero and Eddie Johnson both jumped into the scoring pile. Seattle also posted a 2-0 triumph over the Galaxy in Seattle this year, although that one was way back in May when the Galaxy was an absolute mess. (And a mess without center back Omar Gonzalez.)
  • Johnson is expected to play after being held out of the lineup in last week’s 3-0 loss to Los Angeles; Schmid called that choice more precautionary, insisting Johnson could have started had that contest been more do-or-die.
  • The news isn’t as great for right-sided playmaker Mauro Rosales, who is still not back to full training. Left back Leo Gonzalez is closer to a return, but it’s Rosales (with his creativity, veteran problem-solving in the midfield and invaluable crossing) that this game most requires.
  • What Schmid said about Rosales, who did manage his way through an 8-v-8 drill in practice Friday: “It’s like, ‘How close are they to 100 percent? How many minutes do they have to give?’ In a game like it is (Sunday), if you have a five-speed, you’ve got to get it into fifth gear, as well. If all you can get it into is third or fourth, then you have to think a little bit.”
  • It will be so important for holding midfielder Osvaldo Alonso to police his position with discipline. If he gets too far forward, too eager to add another element into the attack, David Beckham could pick the Sounders apart from those deep-lying positions.
  • You could say the same about Seattle’s outside backs. Generally, the order of the day cannot be “attack, attack, attack.” It has to be “Attack, attack … but be smart about it!”
  • Michael Gspurning was great in Seattle goal all year – but did not have a good match last week in Los Angeles. The Sounders will likely need a special save or two from their big Austrian on Sunday.
  • Don’t forget, the Sounders faced this exact deficit last year, falling 3-0 to Real Salt Lake in last year’s conference semifinals. Seattle gave the visitors everything they could handle on the back end but still came up a goal short.

On the L.A. Galaxy

  • The subplot here that few are talking about (because L.A. has that commanding lead and seems more likely to go through) is that this could be the final match for a Galaxy side blessed with both Beckham and Landon Donovan. We’ll visit more about this one in a subsequent post … but just stick that in your back pocket for now.

(MORE: Last time as a dynamic duo for this illustrious pair)

  • In fact, given Donovan’s hamstring injury, who knows? He limped out of last week’s win over Seattle and still sounds pretty iffy for this one.
  • Even without Donovan, European veteran Christian Wilhelmsson and American Mike Magee, who always rises in the playoffs, are fine choices to play on the outside, flanking Beckham and  …
  • Beckham’s central partner remains a mystery given the Achilles injury Juninho is dealing with. Marcelo Sarvas is the other option, and while he doesn’t quite have Juninho’s range or versatility, an appearance would hardly be a worry point for the Galaxy.
  • If L.A. has one, it’s rookie center back Tommy Meyer, although he did just fine alongside Omar Gonzalez a week and a half back as the Galaxy back line dealt professionally with San Jose’s array of front-running threats.
  • Robbie Keane was on my ballot as second choice MVP in the league (behind San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski.) He has four goals so far, and one more inserts him into the Top 10 best playoff scoring seasons in league history.

(MORE: Keane inching closer to playoff scoring records)

  • What Sounders boss Schmid says about Donovan and Keane, who have such a great understanding in their combined movement off the ball:  “When Landon and Keane are on their game, I think they’re probably the best forward pair in the league, in terms of just experience and mobility and speed and quickness,”
  • Galaxy fans, hide your eyes … L.A. was on the wrong side of perhaps the best comeback in MLS playoff history. The 2003 Galaxy carried a 2-0 lead into a second leg decider at San Jose. At one point, L.A went up 4-0 on total goals aggregate. And yet, San Jose bombed all the way back to take the series 5-4.
  • What Donovan said about how the match could devolve if his team sits in and defends too much. “If we don’t do a good job of putting them back on their heels and attacking them then they can have wave after wave of attack against us and when that happens, they have talented players that can make plays and it’ll be a dangerous game. …We don’t want to fall into that, we don’t want a game where we’re giving up 30 shots like Salt Lake did last year and squeaking our way through,” Donovan added. “We want to put them on the back foot a little bit and we think that we have the quality to do that.”

Bottom line:

Given how well Keane is playing, and knowing how good the Galaxy can be on the counter, it would seem the Galaxy have at least one goal in them. If that happens, Seattle needs four just to extend the series into added time.

Four goals can happen, but it probably won’t here. At the very least, we can say that chances are fairly slim.

So for Seattle it’s about this preciously delicate balance: forward-thinking and aggressive enough to go get the goals, but still safe enough in the back to keep the shutout.

Don’t bet on it to work – but look Seattle to keep things interesting.

Latest Posts
  1. DONE DEAL: Arsenal, West Brom and Villarreal all got new players Wednesday

    Jan 28, 2015, 11:10 PM EST

    arsenal.com arsenal.com

    So what went down on Wednesday, as the transfer window took another step toward slamming shut?

  2. VIDEO: Christian Eriksen scores a free kick for the ages in League Cup semi

    Jan 28, 2015, 10:20 PM EST

    Sheffield United v Tottenham Hotspur - Capital One Cup Semi-Final: Second Leg Getty Images

    Set up for a free kick outside the 18, Eriksen not only sent an arrow whizzing over the goal, but he managed to spin it into the far upper 90.

  3. Real Madrid will change the name of the Santiago Bernabeu

    Jan 28, 2015, 9:58 PM EST

    Bernabeu Getty Images

    The La Liga giant has woked out a sponsorship deal with United Arab Emirates-based International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC).

  4. USMNT postgame reaction: Jozy unsure of 3-5-2, Klinsmann explains changes

    Jan 28, 2015, 9:17 PM EST

    Klinsmann AP

    Jurgen Klinsmann remained upbeat, while Jozy Altidore was obviously disappointed.

  5. Player Ratings: Some good, some not so good in Chile’s 3-2 win over the U.S.

    Jan 28, 2015, 8:42 PM EST

    Chile US Soccer AP

    Breaking down the good, the bad and the ugly from Wednesday’s 3-2 loss in Chile.

  6. 3-5-2 system shows life, but plenty of work is needed

    Jan 28, 2015, 8:15 PM EST

    Yedlin Getty Images

    Jurgen Klinsmann said he played the 3-CB system because he had DeAndre Yedlin available. So did it work?

  7. Chile 3-2 USMNT: Another lead disintegrates for Klinsmann’s crew

    Jan 28, 2015, 8:00 PM EST

    Chile US Soccer AP

    Another match fell apart in a haze of substitutions and mistakes as the United States blew a 2-1 lead in Rancagua on Wednesday night.

  8. WATCH: Yedlin to Diskerud to Altidore, and U.S. goes up 2-1 over Chile

    Jan 28, 2015, 7:03 PM EST

    Honduras v United States Getty Images

    Maybe Sunderland just doesn’t know how to use its forwards.

  9. At the half: Altidore, Shea have USMNT leading Chile 2-1 (video)

    Jan 28, 2015, 6:54 PM EST

    @USSoccer @USSoccer

    It was sloppy at times, with the States very much getting used to the 3-5-2 and both sides using a bevy of second-choice players.

  10. WATCH: Brek Shea opens the scoring for the USMNT in Chile

    Jan 28, 2015, 6:48 PM EST

    Ukraine v USA - International Friendly Getty Images

    Brek Shea’s first USMNT goal in a year and a half was a pretty nice finish.

  11. WATCH: Who throws a shoe (at a ref)? Arda Turan in Atleti’s loss to Barca

    Jan 28, 2015, 5:45 PM EST

    2fc2d5e8ed7f8aa879db8540f8f644b0 Getty Images

    Arda Turan was fouled, losing his shoe in the process. Since the linesman didn’t deem the offense worthy of a foul, Turan had one recourse.

  12. Klinsmann goes 3-5-2 versus Chile; Shea and Yedlin on the wings

    Jan 28, 2015, 5:00 PM EST

    @USSoccer @USSoccer

    Real Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando is between the sticks for the States, and Jermaine Jones continues his time as a center back.

  13. Sheffield United 2-2 Tottenham: Eriksen sees Spurs to All-London final in absolute thriller

    Jan 28, 2015, 4:52 PM EST

    Sheffield United v Tottenham Hotspur - Capital One Cup Semi-Final: Second Leg Getty Images

    After a thriller at Bramall Lane, Chelsea and Spurs will duke it out on March 1 in their shared home city for the League Cup.

  14. Africa Cup of Nations roundup: Lots will be drawn to determine second place in Group D

    Jan 28, 2015, 3:57 PM EST

    FBL-AFR-2015-MATCH23-CMR-CIV Getty Images

    The lots will be drawn at 10am ET on Thursday. Winner gets Ghana on Feb. 1.

  15. U.S. international Sacha Kljestan signs for New York Red Bulls

    Jan 28, 2015, 3:01 PM EST

    Galatasaray AS v RSC Anderlecht - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Huge trade now makes sense as Kljestan arrives in MLS.

  16. Transfer rumor roundup: Cuadrado can join Chelsea for $40 million say Fiorentina

    Jan 28, 2015, 2:39 PM EST

    ACF Fiorentina v SSC Napoli - Serie A Getty Images

    With less than a week left in the window, here’s the latest gossip…

  17. Queens Park Rangers’ Canadian winger Junior Hoilett on Toronto FC, relegation battles and more

    Jan 28, 2015, 2:00 PM EST

    Queens Park Rangers v Crystal Palace - Premier League Getty Images

    Toronto native Hoilett chats to PST about MLS, being involved in a Premier League relegation battle and much more in this one-on-one.

  18. Arsenal make it official, sign Brazilian defender Gabriel Paulista from Villarreal

    Jan 28, 2015, 1:10 PM EST

    FBL-EUR-C3-APOLLON-VILLARREAL FBL-EUR-C3-APOLLON-VILLARREAL

    Wenger get’s his man as Arsenal’s new center back has finally arrived.

  19. English FA charge Chelsea’s Diego Costa with violent conduct after stamp, may miss Man City match

    Jan 28, 2015, 12:28 PM EST

    FBL-ENG-LCUP-CHELSEA-LIVERPOOL FBL-ENG-LCUP-CHELSEA-LIVERPOOL

    Costa could miss Chelsea’s massive clash against Man City on Saturday. All the details, here.

  20. Chelsea sweating on fitness of Cesc Fabregas, plus others, ahead of Manchester City match

    Jan 28, 2015, 11:47 AM EST

    Chelsea v Arsenal - Premier League Getty Images

    Chelsea’s injury problems are piling up ahead of their huge tilt against City this Saturday.

Featured video

Top five Premier League goals: Week 22