Sounders FC (West No. 3) vs. LA Galaxy (West No. 4)
Sunday, Nov. 18, 6 p.m., CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.
TV: ESPN (Adrian Healey, Taylor Twellman, Monica Gonzalez)
Radio: KIRO 97.3 FM (Ross Fletcher, Kasey Keller)
Referee: Mark Geiger
Aggregate score: Galaxy leads 3-0
KEY GALAXY PLAYERS
GK Josh Saunders — The Sounders are most likely going to create a fair amount of scoring chances in this second leg. So what Saunders will show up? The great shot-stopper? Maybe a guy who’s nervy on crosses? Will he let an easy goal in (perhaps due to some wet turf)? He was great in the regular-season finale between these teams but didn’t have to do much in the first leg. We’ll see what’s required tonight.
F Robbie Keane — I usually try to change these up and highlight different players, but it’s hard to ignore Keane these days. He had two goals and an assist in the first leg, he has four goals in the playoffs so far, he’s been arguably the best player in the league since the midway point of the season, and with Landon Donovan dealing with hamstring tightness, he’ll probably be the Galaxy’s best bet at nicking a goal on the counterattack.
M David Beckham — So who will ignite that Galaxy counterattack? Expect the ball at Beckham’s feet when the Sounders turn the ball over. While known for his service in dead-ball situations, the “original DP” is also a marksman in the run of play with long balls into the attack. Also, the visitors will be looking to draw fouls on the Seattle end, which could provide him with some dangerous opportunities of his own.
Eddie Johnson vs. Omar Gonzalez — Expect a lot of crosses to come into the Galaxy penalty box in this game. That’s where the Sounders have arguably the best aerial target in the league (Johnson’s nine headed goals were the most in MLS history since the stat was recorded) and the Galaxy have arguably the best aerial presence on defense (the 6-foot-5 center back is a beast in the air). What more do you need to say?
Sigi Schmid vs. Bruce Arena — It’s no secret who won this matchup in the first leg. Even if the 4-5-1 wasn’t the reason for the 3-0 loss at The Home Depot Center, Schmid’s message of holding firm at 1-0 wasn’t received by the players well enough as the Sounders got stretched and allowed a couple goals on the counterattack. If Seattle is going to stun the defending champs with an amazing comeback — not an easy task when you have to do it — attention will go to the coaches again.
Believing vs. the odds — By now all the stats have been written about. Only one team has ever come back from a playoff series deficit of at least three goals (the 2003 San Jose Earthquakes). No team has ever come back from a three-goal loss in a first leg (something only the Sounders have experienced). But as long as the team believes and the fans believe, you never know what might happen.
If you caught my spot on NorthWest Sports Tonight the other day, you know my prediction already. I just can’t see the Galaxy blowing this type of lead as the defending champs are looking primed for a repeat in my opinion.
I’m not even sure the Sounders will be able to make it all that interesting in the end. That third goal in L.A. was a killer.
Here’s how I see it playing out…
Sounders FC 2, LA Galaxy 1 (LA advanced 4-2 on aggregate)
SEA — Eddie Johnson (Fredy Montero) 52′
LA — Christian Wilhelmsson (Robbie Keane) 68′
SEA — Steve Zakuani (Fredy Montero) 85′