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Los Angeles Galaxy (leads aggregate series 1-0)
Head coach: Bruce Arena, third year
Last week: Beat Seattle 1-0 at Qwest Field
Last year: Lost in MLS Cup final to Real Salt Lake after penalty kicks
KEY GALAXY PLAYERS
M David Beckham — I’ll try to focus on three different guys compared to last week and in a defensive-minded, counterattacking approach, Beckham will be one to watch. His long-ball service and free kicks will be vital for a team that’s not looking to push the action. With his placement of the ball, he can create danger where many other can’t, even if he’s not a huge goalscoring threat himself.
D A.J. DeLaGarza — The undersized centerback graded out very well in the first leg and didn’t put many feet wrong. With Gregg Berhalter still recovering from a viral infection — boy Berhalter looked like he’s lost a lot of weight to due that bug — I expect the 23-year-old to get the call again. At just 5-foot-9-inches, will he be up to it?
M Dema Kovalenko — The hard-nosed Ukrainian thrived in the role of the villain in the first leg, in part because the referee let him. The most cautioned player in MLS playoff history, Kovalenko’s job is wreak havoc in the midfield and his rough-house tactics did worked well enough in Seattle. Considering he has a caution, Birchall could get the call though.
Seattle M Sanna Nyassi v. LA defender Todd Dunivant/Eddie Lewis — It doesn’t matter who starts for the Galaxy, the onus in this matchup is on the Sounders FC winger. Nyassi had a game to forget in the first leg and he really needs to show up in L.A. We’ve seen what he can do when he’s on form, both with goals and assists, but now he needs to become consistent. Or at the very least keep his crosses in play.
LA forward Edson Buddle v. Seattle D Tyrone Marshall — Don’t these guys have an interesting history? Weren’t they traded for one another? Well the two will likely be paired up several times tonight and as we saw in the first leg, Buddle doesn’t need much time or space to be a threat. The Galaxy striker was also pretty dangerous in the air last game against Jeff Parke. Will Marshall be rusty at all?
Seattle F Blaise Nkufo v. LA defender Omar Gonzalez — I thought the young centerback got the better of this matchup in the first leg. I’ve never seen Nkufo hesitant to get physical and go after long balls, but he appeared as such after dealing with the 6-foot-5 tower in the back. Combining in tight spaces is also a way in which the Sounders designated player needs to have an impact.
It seems like the Sounders thrive when they can embrace the underdog role. Once overlooked or expected to lose, you see the rave green at its finest. I expect that might be the case Sunday night at the Home Depot Center. But…
Los Angeles is a dang good side. The talent and discipline is top class and even if Seattle had the lead going into this tie it would be a tough task to advance. Plus, all three lower seeds won conference semifinals around the league. Can it really be 4-for-4?
I picked the Galaxy before the playoffs started and I’ll stick with them to advance. They are an especially good team at absorbing pressure and making the most of its chances. I think it will be a thrilling game, however, like they all have been in the postseason so far.
Sounders FC 1, L.A. Galaxy 1 (Los Angeles advances 2-1 on aggregate)
38′ — Landon Donovan (Juninho)
62′ — Fredy Montero (Steve Zakuani)