Defense dominated in Game 1, which ended in a 1-0 win by the Los Angeles Galaxy over the host Seattle Sounders in their Western Conference MLS clash last Sunday night.
Round two commences at 6:00 p.m. PT Sunday in a nationally televised clash on ESPN2. The big question is what kind of match we can expect to see this time around.
The upcoming match at Home Depot Center in Carson, California, pits two of the most celebrated veteran coaches of soccer, Bruce Arena of the host Galaxy and Sigi Schmid of the invading Sounders, against one another.
Given their expertise as chess players, coupled with the teams' four meetings this season (with L.A. holding a 3-1 edge), it was no surprise that defense dominated in the last match. Here are two mentors who know how to create successful game plans.
Sounders faithful point to the fact that the two decisive Galaxy wins over Seattle came in the first half of the season, when L.A. was the hottest team in MLS and the Sounders were struggling.
Schmid noted after last Sunday’s meeting that Arena had concentrated on disrupting the Sounders’ game in the midfield and that its success helped to account for the low scoring.
After Friday’s workout at the Sounders’ Starfire Training Center in Tukwila, Schmid focused on what it will take for his team to prevail on Sunday.
"We’re excited and I think we are ready tactically,” Schmid said. “It’s one of those things. Their tactical game plan last time was set a certain way, they got a goal and it worked for them. If we would’ve finished our chances then everybody would’ve said their tactical plan was bad. That’s the way it is."
“For us, it’s a matter of creating a similar amount of chances that we did the last game. If we can put 15 shots, if we can put 8-10 shots on goal and force [Donovan] Ricketts into saves I think we will get the goals we need.”
After Sunday’s match Schmid noted that it was the first half of a 90-minute game that stood 1-0 in the Galaxy’s favor. He explained that his team has played well on the road and looked forward to the challenge of turning a one goal disadvantage around and advancing to the Western Conference Finals.
Should Sunday's match end in a tie, the Galaxy will advance due to the one goal edge achieved last week. If the Sounders prevail by one goal then a 30-minute overtime session will be held. Should the teams be even at that point, the issue will be resolved by penalty kicks.
On the Los Angeles side, Arena can take solace in the fact that the Galaxy are strong at home. Schmid conceded that overcoming a Galaxy home field advantage represents a challenge to his team Sunday night.
"They are … at home so you get a little more excited at home to want to try and go forward and you’re playing in front of friends and family," Schmid noted.
Defender Jeff Parke was injured in the second half of last week’s match and was replaced by veteran Tyrone Marshall. Schmid held him out of drills all week and evaluated the possibility of him working out Friday. The coach’s Friday report was not optimistic.
"We saw how he was today, he couldn’t train today," Schmid revealed. "So chances are probably not good that he’ll play but we’ve still got two days so we will see."
If Parke is unable to play, Marshall is the likely starter. Marshall has looked good in Champions League action this season and knows the Galaxy well, having earned All-Star status as a defender there.
Schmid has one available card to play to boost scoring punch. Former Harvard University star Mike Fucito performed with gusto and displayed goal scoring potential in Champions League action.