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MLS Playoffs: A Look Ahead to Galaxy-Sounders

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Photo by Richard McEnery/ISIphotos.com

By JOSE M. ROMERO

Thanks to a surprise goal from Edson Buddle, the Los Angeles Galaxy own the upper hand ahead of Sunday's Major League Soccer Western Conference semifinal second leg with the Seattle Sounders.

The shocking strike happened in the 38th minute last Sunday at Qwest Field. A long routine header from defender Omar Gonzalez landed at the feet of Buddle ahead of all but one Seattle defender. At least 35 yards from the goal, Buddle got a good bounce, turned, and fired away, and the ball eluded Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller.

The Galaxy captured the first leg, 1-0, and are now afforded the luxury of playing with less pressure to score on its home field.

The goal was deflating for Seattle at home in front of 35,000-plus fans, but the Sounders kept attacking. Donovan Ricketts was a rock for the Galaxy in goal, however, and made eight saves. His best came in the 23rd minute, when he turned away a header right in front from Seattle's Fredy Montero. 

As well as its defensive unit played, the Galaxy did have some defensive breakdowns that gave the Sounders chances, and it will have to address those for the return leg. Though the Galaxy largely negated the Sounders' game plan of working the ball to its speedy wings, Steve Zakuani and Sanna Nyassi, and allowing them to create, the Sounders still have that speed presence and the potential to strike quickly. 

The first leg was physical and saw several hard tackles. Expect that to continue Sunday in the next chapter of what has been mostly a one-side rivalry since the Sounders joined MLS.

The Sounders will have to push forward from the start and it is imperative that they score first. Getting down 2-0 to the Galaxy would appear to be too deep a hole to climb out of given the way the Galaxy midfield controlled the run of play last week. For the Sounders, midfield play is critical.

Seattle must get more touches for center midfielders Nathan Sturgis and Osvaldo Alonso. Gonzalez and the Galaxy defense did a fine job on Sounders forward Blaise N'kufo, keeping him from being much of a factor and limiting his ability to distribute the ball to Zakuani when in deep. That should continue to be part of the Galaxy's game plan.

OUTLOOK

The Sounders have yet to win a playoff game in team history and are on the road down a goal. The Galaxy didn't win the Supporters Shield for its offense only, and will be in lockdown mode with opportunities to create chances off the counterattack on Sunday. Los Angeles is in solid position to advance to the conference final, but more stout defending by Landon Donovan and David Beckham on the wings will be necessary to keep Seattle's attack off balance.

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Do you see any way Seattle battles back and takes the series on the road? Think the Galaxy are too strong defensively and will advance?

Share your thoughts below.

Comments

  1. You don’t have to be a homer to believe the Sounders can come back from a 1-0 deficit. It’s nothing, as San Jose showed last night and teams around the world demonstrate all the time.

    There’s so much talk about how LA shut down Zakuani and Nyassi out wide, and that’s fine because they did, but the larger story is that we created plenty of chances anyway but failed to convert and the Galaxy lead only because of a once-in-a-career wonder goal. Sure I’d rather be tied or in the Galaxy’s shoes, but heading to LA ain’t exactly heading into the Bernabeu. This is still very doable for Seattle.

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  2. They need to start Fernandez at CAM and bring Fucito in for Nyassi at half if they haven’t scored and/or grabbed the lead. Maybe slide Montero outside, because he wasn’t handling the physical play of LA last week. Keep Sturgis for defensive later, if necessary.

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  3. I actually hope Salazar is given a chance to redeem himself. It’s been a tough year for him, starting with car trouble back in April, H1N1 midseason and finally a famously poor summer haircut that really diminished his standing among the players. To me, his struggle is the real story of this season and I’ll be watching his performance closely. If anyone has any questions for me or Goat Boy just let us know.

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  4. I’d say Keller has had a pretty awful year – if the standard is the world class form he’s shown throughout his career – but there isn’t a goalkeeper in the world that saves that shot.

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  5. I just hope the ref this week does a better job of setting than Ricardo Salazaar. Salazaar let a number of fouls (on both sides) that probably should have drawn yellows. That had two negative effects:

    1. Led to some real inconsistency when he turned around and gave cards for similar infractions in the first half.

    2. Allowed the game to lose some of its flow as players became more physical as the game went on.

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  6. Granted, I’m a homer….but I still believe the Sounders can pull this off. It’s going to take a classic performance a la the USOC Final this year, but they do have it in them.

    Whether or not LA will give them the chance to play, that remains to be seen.

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  7. Seattle will have to push forward to look for the equaliser which will open them up even more for the counter by the Galaxy. If they allow the Galaxy to score 1st it could lead to a blowout by the home team.

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