Sounders FC (West No. 3) vs. LA Galaxy (West No. 4)
Sunday, Nov. 11, 6 p.m., The Home Depot Center, Carson, Calif.
National TV: ESPN (Adrian Healey, Taylor Twellman)
Radio: KIRO 97.3-FM, SiriusXM FC Ch. 94 (Ross Fletcher, Kasey Keller)
Referee: Jair Marrufo
KEY GALAXY PLAYERS
F Robbie Keane — He’s the unquestioned Galaxy MVP. Teammates have been saying he deserves to be in the MLS MVP conversation. His coach says he’s been the best player in the league since returning from the European championships. Including the playoffs, he’s scored 15 since June 23 and Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid said he put his team on his back in the second leg of a conference semifinal against San Jose.
D Omar Gonzalez — The 2011 MLS Defender of the Year is the centerpiece of the Galaxy backline, he’s a physically dominant and intimidating presence. At 6 foot 5, he wins nearly all of his aerial duels on defense. That also makes him a target on LA’s set pieces on offense. His normal center-back partner, A.J. DeLaGarza is still out injured, but he’s starting to develop a nice pairing with rookie Tommy Meyer.
GK Josh Saunders — We saw how goalkeepers can affect a series in the conference semifinals, where Nick Rimando stood on his head to turn the Sounders away time after time and Michael Gspurning was just about flawless, as well. Saunders had a heckuva game two weeks ago, making four stellar saves against Seattle in a shutout win at The Home Depot Center in the regular-season finale.
Christian Tiffert vs. Todd Dunivant — The German DP took a blow to the head Thursday, which may or may not have contributed that what was an underwhelming performance against Real Salt Lake. I think there’s a fair chance he might get the call out on the right again, where he’ll face one of the most consistent left backs in the league the past few years. The Sounders attack will need some better service from the flanks, and Tiffert will be key in that regard.
Brad Evans vs. Mike Magee — This isn’t really a tangible matchup on the field, but more a matchup of which ‘X-factor’ type of player has a bigger impact for his team. When attention falls heavily on guys like Robbie Keane, Eddie Johnson, Landon Donovan and Fredy Montero, it’s guys like Evans and Magee who benefit from the space and get the chances to turn a game. The LA midfielder has shown his penchant for the clutch play and the Sounder has been playing at his best recently.
Short rest vs. shorter rest — The Galaxy had an extra day of rest before today’s game, but this is still the team’s fourth in 11 days. The Sounders might have to make a change or two having just two days rest and a pair of flights in between its game tonight and the one at Rio Tinto on Thursday. Not only that, Seattle has a projected starter suspended for the rest of postseason and will likely have to play a third-choice left back.
He’s been the talk of the past two days, and I think the difference in this game will be Robbie Keane. He was dominant against the Sounders two weeks ago and he was the star of the series win against San Jose.
As Schmid has noted, Keane is motivated and possesses that veteran savvy, so he knows what it takes to get things done. Tracking the LA star will be difficult, as he likes to drop into midfield to get involved, and I’m curious to see if Seattle can slow him down.
The goal for the Sounders is to get a result, but ultimately keeping things close is key. A one-goal loss isn’t devastating, and I’m picking a result that would serve Seattle better if a certain away-goals tiebreaker was in effect.
LA Galaxy 2, Sounders FC 1
LA — Robbie Keane (Landon Donovan) 23′
SEA — Eddie Johnson (Christian Tiffert) 44′
LA — Edson Buddle (David Beckham) 78′