MLS Western Conference Finals Preview: Galaxy vs. Sounders

 

 BY KAYLA KNAPP

On Sunday night, the Seattle Sounders will go somewhere the club has never been before: the Western Conference Finals.

After taking down a tough Real Salt Lake side, the Sounders must now face the reigning MLS Cup Champions. But the Los Angeles Galaxy are also fresh off a difficult series with the Supporters’ Shield winners San Jose Earthquakes. There will be plenty of tired legs coming into this match.

The Galaxy have the advantages of an extra day of rest and starting the series at home, but the Sounders will without a doubt be ready for the match – don’t expect them to do anything but come out strong.

The biggest challenge facing the Galaxy  in this series is breaking down the stingiest defense in the West (and second overall in the league). The Sounders backline and goalkeeper Michael Gspurning have only conceded 33 goals this season. Add in that the Galaxy have scored once in three meetings this season, and the offensive trio of Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle have their work cut out for them.

The Sounders defense could have trouble at left back now after MLS suspended fullback Marc Burch for the remainder of the playoffs for using a homophobic slur during Seattle’s second-leg win against Real Salt Lake on Thursday. With Leonardo Gonzalez hurt, Seattle will likely turn to Zach Scott at left back.

On the other end of the pitch, the Galaxy defense will have to figure out how to contain the Seattle attack featuring Eddie Johnson and Fredy Montero. Omar Gonzalez and Tommy Meyer (in place of the still recovering A.J. DeLaGarza) will need to play how they did at Buck Shaw Stadium on Wednesday. The center back pairing dealt perfectly with Steven Lenhart and Chris Wondolowski, who came at them aerially and on the ground. The defense will face something similar in the dynamic attack that Johnson and Montero will bring at them. With 27 goals scored between the two of them, and Johnson flying through the air and Montero slicing up defenses with his incisive runs, nothing short of another stellar defensive performance will do.

However, Seattle’s attack will likely be missing playmaker Mauro Rosales, who is still recovering from a hamstring strain, but should be back for the second leg. The influential midfielder has 13 assists this season, and would be a huge boost for the Sounders on the return leg. Getting out of the first leg at the Home Depot Center with any positive result would be huge for Seattle.

Here is a breakdown of the Western Conference championship series:

SEATTLE SOUNDERS vs. LOS ANGELES GALAXY

First leg at Home Depot Center: Sunday at 9pm ESPN
Second leg at Centurylink Field: Sunday, Nov. 18, 9pm ESPN

SEASON SERIES: Overall, the Sounders outscored the Galaxy 6-1 in their three meetings this year. Seattle took the first two at home, winning 2-0 in May and then 4-0 in August. But just a couple of weeks ago, Los Angeles won the regular season finale 1-0 win on their home pitch. Sounders won the season series, 2-1-0.

KEY PLAYERS – SOUNDERS: F Eddie Johnson, F Fredy Montero, M Mauro Rosales, M Brad Evans, GK Michael Gspurning GALAXY: F Robbie Keane, M Landon Donovan, M Juninho, D Omar Gonzalez, GK Josh Saunders

MATCH-UP TO WATCH: It’s clear that both teams have powerful attacks, but the difference-makers in this series will likely come in the midfield. The Galaxy’s Juninho and Sounders’ Osvaldo Alonso will go toe-to-toe in the middle of the pitch. Whichever player can get the upper hand in possession and distribution will be the one to lead his team to success. Keep an eye on Alonso though, as he is on yellow card watch – if he gets one in the first leg, he’ll miss the second.

OUTLOOK: Seattle head into this series after their fierce battle with Real Salt Lake to get here. The slightly battered squad will need to shake off their tired legs in Carson on Sunday night and just go all out. They have a week to recover between matches – getting a result in this first leg would clearly give the Sounders the upper hand heading back home.

The Galaxy must take advantage of the opportunity in front of them. They are more rested, and will be playing at home in front of an expected sellout crowd at the Home Depot Center. Everyone knows that Centurylink is a tough environment to come into a get a win, so heading into the second leg with a win from the first would take a bit of the weight off their shoulders. Though, we all saw what happened on Wednesday at Buck Shaw, so even if the Galaxy lost this first leg, don’t expect any less than an all-out war zone on the 18th.

PREDICTION:  The Sounders are a team full of talent, with a lot of great players on their squad, but in this series, the odds are stacked firmly against them. Add in all of the above to their lack of experience at this stage of the playoffs, and the Galaxy will take this series. The first leg, a 3-1 Los Angeles win, the second leg a 0-0 draw in Seattle.

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18 Responses to MLS Western Conference Finals Preview: Galaxy vs. Sounders

  1. Jeff Fulton says:

    1-1 at Home Depot
    0-0 and Galaxy win on Penalty Kicks at Seattle (as long as Donovan shows up).

    • Ben R says:

      Remember the last time Donovan took a PK at Qwest/CLink in the playoffs? I am still not sure the ball has landed yet.

  2. AzTeXan says:

    I hope Seattle wins because I like them being in the CCL. They would never go and lose to TFC like a bunch jawns.

  3. Matt says:

    Burch is suspended 3 games and fined an undisclosed amount, must attend sensitivity and diversity classes as a result of his homophobic slur.

  4. el paso tx wants NASL says:

    Seattle is not going through- I’m not hating or nothing but their coach is not good enough for the seattle organization- why?bcus seattle can easily get a top coach, top players with the salary cap in mind but I guess they like to think small- I can go on but people will say I’m hating but this thing of keeping mls american with american coaches and front office people is bull crap. Ican not wait until a team wins mls cup or open cup and supporters shield with a south american coach or even african and of course european.

  5. Say What? says:

    Dogpile on the ignoramus!

  6. FOREVER ORANGE! says:

    “The center back pairing dealt perfectly with Steven Lenhart and Chris Wondolowski”…er? Perfectly? That is quite an overstatement Knapp. I believe they rode their luck on quite a few missed chances by SJ. Could have easily been 3-2 at half in that game. They did enough on the night. I’m a Dynamo fan but I am under no delusions that we rode our luck against SKC in the 2nd leg. Same with LA. The LA back line will need to put in good performances against a strong Seattle front line. There are gaps for the Sounders to exploit for sure. Should be a fun series.

  7. Skeeter says:

    LA should scout in the off season for the best Tanzanian coach

  8. ciscokid says:

    The prediction seems a bit optimistically tilted toward the Galaxy. But if they do win the first leg 3-1 I think Seattle is not shut out at home with all guns blazing trying to make up a two-goal deficit.

    More realistically I see a 1 goal win for LA (and I’m a Sounders fan) in first leg. What happens in second leg depends on injuries and yellow card suspensions. A full strength Sounders team wins. Less than that (no Rosales, or Alonso for example) and we’re in a tough spot.

  9. Naked Animals says:

    Whatever the result it could be close ( of course I could be wrong) I expect either team to win 2-1 in the first leg, the second leg looks like a 2-0 win or 1-1 draw.

  10. chris_thebassplayer says:

    Unless Omar goes down 12 minutes into the game, LA should get over. That said, if Seattle focuses on Keane, plays him very tight and physical, hammers him cleanly and also takes a few smart fouls, they’ll have a puncher’s chance. Quakes couldn’t manage to keep track of Keane and played him too soft…let him know he’s in a game…make his life miserable. Front him with a sagging Alonso with CB support tightly behind, keep track of LD…Buddle will not do anything, especially if Keane and LD are accounted for. Sigi is very savvy and will come up with a plan to keep the game defensively manageable. With Rosales out or hampered, I don’t think Seattle has enough attack to consistently bother the LA defense. I think LA eeks it out in OT or PKs in a cagey defensive battle.