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September 20, 2013 at 10:42 PM

Sounders FC vs. Los Angeles Galaxy, preview and prediction

LA Galaxy LogoSounders FC (15-8-4) vs. Los Angeles Galaxy (13-10-5)
Saturday, Sept. 21, 7:30 p.m., StubHub Center, Carson, Calif.
National TV: NBC Sports Network (John Strong, Kyle Martino)
Local radio: KIRO 97.3 FM (Ross Fletcher, Kasey Keller)
Spanish Radio: La Gran D 99.3 FM
Referee: Silviu Pestrescu

KEY GALAXY PLAYERS

F Robbie Keane — It’s hard to imagine anyone in MLS has been more efficient this season. He has 13 goals and 11 assists in just 17 games. A May 26 beating of the Sounders helped pad those totals as he had a hat trick and added an assist (all in the first half, no less). He also had three goals against Seattle in the playoffs last year. Personally, I think he’s in the best player in the league, and I’m not sure the Sounders can mark him.

D Omar Gonzalez — Seattle has weapons, too, and it will be up to this U.S. international to shut down the visitors’ attack. In his first four seasons in the league, he has only won Rookie of the Year, Defender of the Year, MLS Cup MVP and been named to the Best XI twice. He’s also in the driver’s seat for a staring position in next year’s World Cup. At 6 foot 5, he’s a threat in the air as the Sounders know; he’s scored twice in this rivalry already.

M Marcelo Sarvas — Coach Sigi Schmid described the 31-year-old Brazilian as the “worker bee” in the Galaxy lineup, and L.A. relies on him and countrymate Juninho to handle the ball winning and distribution in the middle of the field. It’s the dirty work that isn’t always appreciated, as Seattle fans got to know with Osvaldo Alonso, but a lot of the team’s success has been due to its reliable core.

KEY MATCHUPS

Obafemi Martins vs. Leonardo — With Galaxy center back A.J. DeLaGarza out with a dislocated elbow, I think Seattle’s speedster forward could be a serious threat to the hosts’ back-line. Gonzalez, as mentioned earlier, isn’t the best matchup with his height. Leonardo is three inches shorter, so maybe the assignment in marking the reigning MLS Player of the Week falls to him.

Lamar Neagle vs. Sean Franklin — Who knows what Seattle’s lineup will look like, but the Federal Way native has scored in his last three games, so I’m guessing he’ll be roaming the left flank, either as a winger in a 4-3-3 or a midfielder in a 4-4-2. That’s the area of one of the best right backs in the league, who has a penchant for making things happen on offense, as well, when he pushes up the flank.

Hot streak vs. history in L.A. — It’s no secret that things are going well for the Sounders. A five-game winning streak has matched a franchise record and is the longest among all teams this season. Seattle, however, is on a 0-5-1 run on the road vs. the Galaxy, having been outscored 13-2. In the past three games, that margin is 8-0. There might be another trip coming in the playoffs, so a positive result could go a long way in terms of confidence.

PREDICTION

As mentioned earlier, I’m not confident the Sounders can keep the Galaxy out of the net.

L.A. has scored seven times in Seattle’s last two visits alone, and it’s not like the Sounders were bringing in poor teams. Keane is genius with some of his movement and touches in and around the box, and if Landon Donovan is able to return from his ankle injury, those two will be dangerous (they have amazing chemistry up front).

Seattle hasn’t scored at the StubHub Center/Home Depot Center in 364 minutes. That goal, believe it or not, came from Steve Zakuani in the 2010 Western Conference finals. In fact, Zakuani has three of the team’s four goals in L.A., and he’s not expected back yet.

When it comes down to it, I’ve been to every road game against the Galaxy since I got the job in 2010, and I’ve never seen a Sounders win. Maybe I’m bad luck…

Los Angeles Galaxy 2, Sounders FC 1

LA — Gyasi Zardes (Robbie Keane) 41′
LA — Robbie Keane (un) 65′
SEA — Eddie Johnson (Osvaldo Alonso) 89′

*     *     *

What do you think? How do you see this one playing out?

| More in Preview and prediction

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