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Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Seattle Sounders: Someone's Gonna Pay

Jo-Ryan SalazarSenior Analyst IOctober 25, 2010

SEATTLE - MAY 08:  Landon Donovan #10 of the Los Angeles Galaxy takes the field during pre-game ceremonies against the Seattle Sounders FC on May 8, 2010 at Qwest Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Bruce Arena's Los Angeles Galaxy head into the 2010 MLS Cup Playoffs with the best regular season record in Major League Soccer. But one would have to be blind, stupid and possibly dead to think that the G's will stop there.

There is no doubt that the road to Toronto may as well go through Sandy, but first it has to make a stop at Seattle. Qwest Field on Halloween in the 2010 MLS Western Conference Semifinals.

The Qwest Field where fans got a refund from the Seattle Sounders front office for the 4-0 blowout defeat the Galaxy handed them on May 8. That Qwest Field.

Of course, Los Angeles have their own personal beef with Seattle. After all, the Sounders DID defeat them 2-0 on July 7 en route towards their successful U.S. Open Cup defense. And while the Galaxy didn't exactly field their strongest lineup that day, one would be believe that LA will seek to make that setback a pure and simple aberration.

“I feel we’re the team to beat,” Galaxy defender Sean Franklin said on Sunday. “We’ve been first the whole season. [We weren’t] consistently good, but neither was everybody else in the league. I know everyone wants to beat us and it’s going to be a fight when we go into Seattle on Sunday.”

The Galaxy have been able to complete the MLS double before. In 2002, Los Angeles finished first overall in the regular season before Carlos Ruiz scored golden goal over the New England Revolution to win the 2002 MLS Cup.

“What we did [on Sunday] were the things we had planned all along,” Arena said. “We felt it was a one-in-100 chance that today’s game wouldn’t matter.

“We had to earn it. We had to come from behind, we had to play an excellent team in a tough, demanding game. We needed this game.”

“In a way, I’m glad the result [against FC Dallas] went the way it did because if we would have come into the game with it already wrapped up, then we wouldn’t have had the performance,” said Galaxy midfielder David Beckham. “But we needed the performance like this.

“Last week was disappointing, and everyone was looking at our character after that game, so it was important that we had a game like this tonight.”

Arena admitted that Sunday's contest with FC Dallas marked the first time the Galaxy truly had their backs against the wall.

“"Having fought back and winning the way they did gives the team a boost of confidence moving forward,” Arena said. "We haven’t been in a game where we’ve been forced to win, forced to show up and play hard and fight and scrap for everything we could get, and we did it.

“That’s the kind of game that should give our team and our players a lot of confidence as we go into what is going to be a real difficult playoff series against Seattle."

Current Sounders manager Sigi Schmid, who was responsible for giving LA their first and only MLS double to date, fancied his club's chances.

"It's a great match-up. Obviously the Galaxy had two wins against us in the regular season, so we will be motivated and well-prepared," Schmid said. "We were the best team in MLS over the second half of the season, and the fans will get to see the likes of David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle. It's going to be a great series."

Colombia's very own Fredy Montero will be looked on to exact some regular season payback. The Sounders forward has 10 goals and 10 assists and will be a focal point for the Galaxy backline. Montero's right-hand man is midfielder Steve Zakuani, with 10 goals and six assists in the regular season.


However, there may be a bad moon rising in Switzerland's Blaise Nkufo. The forward has five goals to his credit and poses as a tertiary scoring threat for Seattle.

Midfielder Brad Evans was a key part to Seattle's cause until June, so another key provider to watch for is defender James Riley, who has three assists to his credit. The back line of Riley, Patrick Ianni, Leo Gonzalez and Jeff Parke will be counted on to make amends for the production they gave up to LA. Watch for the likes of Alvaro Fernandez, Sanna Nyassi and Osvaldo Alonso to mix things up in the midfield.

Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller has a 14-10-5 record with a 1.15 goals against average, 82 saves and a 68.9 percent save percentage.

As for the Galaxy, Buddle gave up the Budweiser Golden Boot to San Jose's Chris Wondolowski but retains his team's own golden boot with 17 goals this season.

Landon Donovan finishes the 2010 MLS regular season with 16 assists on the year. Donovan is also second on the team in goals with seven. Michael Stephens and Sean Franklin are other key providers to watch out for, with eight and six assists, respectively.

In the midfield, a healthy David Beckham will work wonders for the postseason campaign. Just weeks removed from a healed Achilles, Beckham will look to up his numbers and facilitate on set pieces. Brazilian midfielder Juninho is also performing well on loan and there has been talk on some forums about signing the young star from Sao Paulo for the long haul.

The backline of Franklin, A.J. De La Garza, Todd Dunivant and Omar Gonzalez turned in a second-half performance that will be required to maintain the success they had against Seattle in the regular season. Timely dispossession, clockwork marking and awareness of the passing tendencies in their own defensive third will be crucial for the Galaxy.

Of course, goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts will need to do his share of the dirty work as well. The Big Cat from Montego Bay ends his 2010 regular season with an 18-7-4 record, a 0.90 GAA, 79 saves and a 76 percent save percentage in 2,610 minutes of action.

Prediction:



It's not going to be the 4-0 blowout the fans saw on the eighth of May. But it will be a win nonetheless for Los Angeles because they have rediscovered how to deliver with their backs against the wall. The Galaxy will have a solid advantage heading into the second leg of this conference semifinal.

Los Angeles Galaxy 3, Seattle Sounders 0


Kickoff for this match is scheduled for Oct. 31 at 5:00 p.m. PT and will be televised by ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and ESPN3.com.

INS & OUTS


Buddle and Gonzalez: the toast of the team


Edson Buddle and Omar Gonzalez earned team awards after the match against FC Dallas.

Buddle was named the Galaxy’s Most Valuable Player, narrowly edging out Landon Donovan for the award, voted on by the local media. In his fourth season with the Galaxy, Buddle was one of the unquestioned stars in MLS this season, scoring a career-high 17 goals. He scored nine of the Galaxy’s first 10 goals this season and despite missing five games while with the U.S. National Team at the World Cup in South Africa, maintained his spot as the Galaxy’s top goalscorer all season long.

The Galaxy lost just once this season when Buddle scored a goal and he moved into fourth place in club history with 42 goals in 87 games since joining the club in June 2007. Buddle added two assists for the Galaxy this season, meaning that he factored in 19 of the club’s 44 goals on the season.

Additionally, Buddle joins Carlos Ruiz as the only two players in Galaxy history to record multiple seasons with 15 or more goals and became the seventh player in MLS history to score 90 or more goals in his MLS career.

The defender of year for Los Angeles went to Gonzalez, who appeared in and started 28 games for the club this season, the most for any outfield player on the club, playing the full 90 minutes in each of those games. The 22-year-old from the University of Maryland helped LA tie a team record with 12 clean sheets on the season and allow just 26 goals, which are the least in club history.

Gonzalez was also active at the attacking end of the field, scoring twice with headers off corner kicks, one of which came in second half stoppage time at Chicago on September 4, earning LA a 1-1 draw, snapping a two-game losing streak.

As the team's leading scorer, Buddle earned his team's golden boot. Nice consolation prize gained, that man. The Galaxy were 11-1-1 in the 13 games that Buddle scored in and he scored the game-winner in seven of those. His seven game-winning goals were the second most in MLS while his four multi-goal games were tied for the most in the league this season.

Finally, Buddle was named the MLS W.O.R.K.S. Humanitarian of the Year as a result of his active involvement with the team and Galaxy Foundation's community endeavors. Buddle served as the Galaxy’s ambassador for their Pepsi Refresh Project idea in order to help the club win a $50,000 grant.

He was also as part of the Galaxy’s Read Across America celebration and focus on literacy. As a part of that, Buddle and teammate Todd Dunivant visited Eshelman Avenue Elementary School after training to read to the students and impart the importance of reading.

Adding to his support of literacy, Buddle, Dunivant and Omar González joined the Galaxy Foundation at Stephen C. Foster Elementary School for their annual Reading Garden build with The Home Depot Center Charitable Foundation and The Home Depot on April 22 - Earth Day.

As member of the Galaxy and the 2010 U.S. World Cup squad, Buddle, along with his teammates, supported the Global Campaign for Education - US (GCE-US) and 1Goal: Education for All initiative.

Along with the coaching staff and players, Buddle has demonstrated outstanding involvement during the 2010 MLS season in all facets of the Galaxy’s outreach, grassroots, and soccer programs as well as the Galaxy Foundation’s charitable endeavors.

Finally, Buddle has visited children in Los Angeles area hospitals and through team clinics, assisted in growing the sport of soccer by demonstrating not only skills, but also character and sportsmanship to thousands of kids in both the L.A. market and his home state of New York.

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