For four years since the Sounders FC joined Major League Soccer as the 15th franchise, they have had a strong back and forth with the LA Galaxy. Seattle won the season series in 2009 and 2012 and LA won it in 2010 and 2011.
However, the perception is that LA has been the dominant team in the all-time series because of their 2010 performance that saw them win 4-0 in Seattle, then 3-1 in LA before they met in the Western Conference semifinals and the Galaxy continued their control of the season series with a 3-1 aggregate victory.
Since then, the balance of power has shifted back to Seattle, with the Sounders holding the Galaxy scoreless for 385 consecutive minutes before Mike Magee scored in the regular season finale last month. On the offensive side, Seattle piled up six goals in two meetings at CenturyLink Field this year, winning 2-0 in May and 4-0 in August. Even still, the two clubs are even over the five meetings in two years at 2-2-1.
Just as the Sounders are a different team than the one that lost in the 2010 playoffs to the Galaxy, LA is playing much better than that team that was shutout in three straight matches against Seattle.
A big reason for that is the play of Robbie Keane, who has been one of the best players in the league since he returned from the European Championships in June and has led the charge for a team that went 6-1-3- over their final ten games of the season after the 4-0 drubbing in Seattle.
Keane had seven goals and three assists in the final 10 games of the season and 13 goals and seven assists while playing nearly every minute of the 19 games the Galaxy played after the Euros.
On a team with Landon Donovan and David Beckham, it has been Keane to lead them from a dreadful start to the season and was instrumental in driving them to a 3-2 win over the Supporters’ Shield winning San Jose Earthquakes in the Western Conference semifinal, scoring twice in the deciding second leg in San Jose.
“Landon was good and Beckham had some moments as well, but in that game, Robbie Keane stepped up and said, ‘Get on my back and I’ll carry you over the line’,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “When you have veterans like that with that much international experience and that much veteran savvy, they know how to manage that situation.”
The Designated Player trio of Beckham, Donovan and Keane isn’t alone in making the Galaxy successful though. Juninho had seven goals and four assists from the midfield, Edson Buddle is always a threat to score and Mike Magee has been a late-season standout.
However, the Sounders are more concerned with their own play and how their style can be an advantage to them while being respectful of the Galaxy’s many scoring threats
“They’re a great team, so it’s important that you respect that and stand up to the challenge,” defender Jeff Parke said. “At the same time, we’ve got to take our game to them and do what we need to do.”
For their part, the Sounders are playing with a renewed confidence after advancing to the Western Conference Championship for the first time in franchise history with a 1-0 aggregate series win over Real Salt Lake on Thursday.
“Now that we’ve had the ‘must-have’ it should be easier to be a bit more relaxed and have a good game against LA,” Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning said.
Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. PT on ESPN for Sunday’s match at The Home Depot Center. The second leg is November 18 at CenturyLink Field.