And so it comes down to this. Through 33 games of this MLS season, the Sounders and Galaxy remain even on 61 points with just Saturday’s meeting at CenturyLink Field to go – and with Seattle holding the total-wins tiebreaker.
Last time out: Sounders 2, Galaxy 2 on Oct. 19 at the StubHub Center – Just six days ago in Carson, Calif., Clint Dempsey and Lamar Neagle scored in quick succession as Seattle dug out of a two-goal hole in a three-minute span of the second half.
Battle to watch: Sounder strike force vs. the depleted Galaxy back line
One of the most fascinating things to watch last Sunday was the way the two strike pairing tested the opposing back lines.
L.A. duo Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes made runs then doubled back, sometimes in tandem, sometimes not. Seattle’s Obafemi Martins and Dempsey poked and prodded, searching for a weak spot.
On Saturday, the Sounder strikers won’t have to look as hard — the Galaxy will be without star center back Omar Gonzalez, who was sent off for picking up two yellow cards last weekend.
“Omar and (A.J.) DeLaGarza have a pretty good working relationship with each other,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “When you go back to their college days, they’ve probably played 100 games together between college and the pros. You can’t replicate that understanding.”
Gonzalez’s most likely replacement, Leonardo, will try. But don’t expect the Sounders to give him much time to settle in.
Player to watch: Galaxy forward Robbie Keane
Seattle’s penchant for lapses of concentration at the back bit it again Sunday, as a misplaced Brad Evans header lead to L.A.’s first goal and a poorly cleared corner kick to the second.
Few players in the league are better equipped to pounce on those mistakes than Keane — the Irish international has made a career of popping up in the right place at the right time.
He has the more combined goals and assists (19 and 14, respectively) than any other player in MLS, and a few more would help bolster his league MVP candidacy.
“At the end of the day, it’s going to be about which team comes out and says, ‘We’ve got to do better in certain areas,’” Evans said. “We’ve got to expect them to come out flying.”
How to watch: The match will be televised nationally on NBC, with kickoff slated for noon sharp.