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Western Conference Final preview: Sounders and Galaxy clash in star-studded battle

ClintDempseyLandonDonovanLAGalaxySeattleSounders2-2014MLS (USATODAYSports)

Photo by Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY Sports

 

By DAN KARELL

Think that the Seattle Sounders and LA Galaxy have seen a lot of each other recently? Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena sure believes so.

“We know everything about each other and there’s not a whole lot of preparation. We’ve just got to go out and play,” Arena quipped in a conference call with reporters.

When the two teams face off in the Western Conference finals on Sunday evening at the StubHub Center, it will be the club’s third meeting in just six weeks, after finishing the regular season with a home-and-home set to determine the MLS Supporters Shield winner. The Sounders won that outright in the last match of the regular season, but it’s been the Galaxy who have stormed through the MLS Cup Playoffs so far.

Though the Galaxy played Real Salt Lake to a scoreless draw in Rio Tinto Stadium, Landon Donovan and MLS MVP candidate Robbie Keane combined up top to lead the Galaxy to a 5-0 rout of RSL.

Donovan scored a hat-trick in the victory and both Keane and Marcelo Sarvas added a goal each in the win at home to earn a place in the finals.

It was another sign of the Galaxy’s offensive firepower, having scored three goals or more in nine games since July.

“The way that we like to play is getting at people, attacking people, and entertaining, scoring goals, and surely that’s been the case for a good few months now,” Keane said.

The film reel from the Galaxy’s victory against RSL on Nov. 9 is one that is certainly being played over and over again behind closed doors in the Sounders training facility.

The Galaxy were able to make the field very wide with their outside midfielders touching the chalk on the sidelines of the field. When those midfielders would pinch in, the outside backs had the license to attack, and attack they did. All it did was open up space in the middle for Donovan and Keane, and the two of them don’t miss many chances when given the opportunity.

For the Sounders, since their 2-0 thriller at home against the Galaxy, Sigi Schmid’s club have struggled to score and create many strong opportunities. FC Dallas held the Sounders to just one goal, and held the Designated Player front line of Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey scoreless over 180 minutes.

The team’s other Designated Player, Osvaldo Alonso scored the goal for the Sounders that put them through to the finals but he’s known much more for his defensive work off the ball.

Even though teammate Gonzalo Pineda joined the Sounders just ahead of the start of the season and took some time to become match fit, Pineda and Alonso have partnered to become one of the best central midfield duos in the league, and have helped allow players such as DeAndre Yedlin, Brad Evans, and Marco Pappa to venture farther forward with Alonso cutting off passing lanes when the opposing team tries to counter attack.

“I think everyone realizes how much Ozzie means to our team, not only to our team but to our league also,” Schmid said on a conference call with reporters. “He’s a guy, when you go to National Team camps, you’d love to see him there. I think everybody knows who he is and obviously his play speaks for himself.”

Of course this weekend’s matchup would not be complete if we didn’t have a look at the two veteran head coaches facing each other.

Arena, 63, began his coaching career in 1978 with the Virginia Men’s Soccer team and continued with stops at D.C. United, the New York Red Bulls, and of course the U.S. Men’s National Team before landing with the Galaxy. Schmid, 61, also coached in the college ranks with his alma mater, UCLA, starting in 1980 before moving up to the U.S. Under-20 National Team in 1998 and then coaching the Galaxy for a five-year stint, the Columbus Crew for three seasons, and the Sounders since 2009.

Both coaches have achieved plenty in their careers, winning NCAA College Cups, MLS Cups, CONCACAF Champions Cups, U.S. Open Cups, and Supporters Shields.

“For me I think, Bruce’s teams are always well prepared,” Schmid commented. “He finds a good balance with his teams in terms of putting the right mix of players on the field. Generally he has a veteran influence on the team, he likes to get players who are maybe more towards the tail end of their career but can still be effective, and that always makes his team a dangerous team.

“Bruce always has his team ready for battle.”

Regardless of the eventual MLS Cup final matchup, the Sounders-Galaxy series should be one that will contain plenty of highlight reel action for fans to enjoy.

Comments

  1. LA.. They must be pissed having giving up the SS to Seattle .. I hear that LA is the best.
    20 games unbeaten at home .. Don’t choke at home LA .. Pfft

    Reply
  2. I don’t want to sound rude but sounders need a better coach and team leader. Sigi has reach his potential as a coach and sounders are overated. Dempsey is ae total thug with overated average skills, oba needs help, alonso doesn’t do much but foul, papa deserves a better coach, lamar runs like a robot. On then other hand, galaxy has more experience and play a little better american soccer and better defense, but their goalkeeper might give up easy goals.
    Maybe till next year sounders will win mls cup, given that the west will be a little weaker.
    MLS Cup 2015 hopefuls
    west= fc dallas, sounders, skc,
    east= red bull, dc, revolution.
    Darhorses nycfc,tfc, timbers, galaxy.

    Reply
  3. Sounders in the best position to honor this year’s provisional 30-man USMNT roster, accounting for three big gulps of that rarified air to the Galaxy’s two. So surely they will win, right?

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    • LOL! You clearly are new to this league moron. watch the last 2 mls cups in la. They were so damn good in the atmosphere that MLS changed the rules so teams in it host

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    • If Seattle advances, that glorious atmosphere will be overshadowed by the Sounder’s ugly style of play and plastic pitch. I’d rather see LA in the final because they play attractive soccer on real grass.

      And, not sure if you’re new to MLS, but LA hosted in 2011 and 2012, and LA fans showed up en mass. 30,000+ at each game. And it was loud.

      But yeah, Seattle has a lot of fans.

      Reply
  4. I enjoyed the sad comments from Galaxy fans, above, about the rough play—especially in light of Omar’s two yellows 🙂

    Oh, and let’s see…tsk tsk: Omar, Rogers, and Donovan all on yellow card watch once again.

    Reply
      • Interesting note, Watson! You may have one extra cookie.

        Although, I don’t see where anyone called LA “thugs.” Due to your lack of reading comprehension, I must renege on that extra cookie. You have only yourself to blame.

        LA earned 48 yellow cards; Sounders earned 56—which is both the league mean and median. If the criteria for Team Fair Play is your defense, then by your own admission the Sounders hardly earned the “thug” label.

        Incidentally, LA committed 0.95 fouls for every one suffered this year. Sounders, 0.88 for every one suffered.

      • Big Red just a couple of comments up said both teams were thuggish. I, on the other hand, said nothing about the roughness of the Sounders’ play, so your stats on them are irrelevant to my post. So ding yourself twice for lack of reading comprehension.

      • …said the Sounder fan. Look at the photo above. Yellow card always, red card because Dempsey is a thug/diver/whiner.

      • that foul is not dirty. Dempsey just pulled Donovan down by the shoulder. What Kyle Berckerman did to Raul Meireles was dirty. This was literally nothing.

      • dirty team with a napoleon complex towards the galaxy, just like Dempsey has with Donovan. What makes it even worse is the fans are so delusional about their flounders

      • That is a true beauty. Although I would like to see what Meireles was doing with his right hand before Kyle “advised him to disentangle.”

      • Both teams are thuggish. You got the Osvaldo Alonso thug who straight puts people down. Then you’ve got the Landon Donovan thug who likes to kick people in their Achilles after they have passed the ball. It’s like watching Bruce Bowen Sissy Ball. I prefer the direct thug approach.

        And what’s with no love for Lamar Neagle. All he has done is score more goals and assists than Pappa and Evans combined. I’d even start Barrett over Evans the guy brings nothing to the table and is way overpaid.

      • Nah, it’s just Seattle. LA is one of three teams nominated for the Fair Play award this season. They hardly foul, unless they’re playing Seattle. LA plays down to Seattle’s level, unfortunately.

      • It’s true. I heard LA were offered the Nobel Peace Prize, but turned it down out of humility. I also heard they had to call in therapists to help them cope with the conflicted feelings they had after playing against Seattle and being forced to get dirty with the devils from up north. Many of the Galaxy players had never fouled before in their entire careers; many of them still aren’t able to sleep at night.

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