Season finale a massive one for Sounders against LA Galaxy

The Sounders old rivals from the south will be in town this weekend for a nationally televised match on ESPN.

Sounders FC vs LA Galaxy
October 27, 2013, 6 pm PT; CenturyLink Field
TV/Radio: ESPN; 97.3 FM; La Gran D 99.3 FM (Spanish)

If the LA Galaxy is a measuring stick, Sounders FC has shown considerable growth over the course of its two meetings at the StubHub Center this season. Seattle will use Sunday’s matchup at CenturyLink Field as a barometer to determine how ready it is for the playoffs and how far it has come since a 4-0 defeat in the first meeting this season in May.

“The first one, they absolutely throttled us in the first half. The second time we went down there, we got the tie,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “I thought we were a lot more competitive and combative in terms of our approach to the game. I think we learned that we’re capable of getting a result.”

Simply getting a result will be no easy task against the 15-11-7 Galaxy. Winners of the MLS Cup in 2011 and 2012, LA is in a heated battle among the two combatants on Sunday and the Colorado Rapids for the bottom three spots in the Western Conference playoff picture. The top-finishing team among the three will avoid the Knockout Round match next week.

That brings an added dimension to what has become an intense rivalry between two teams that have been among the top three in MLS since Sounders FC joined the league in 2009 and two of only three teams to reach the MLS Cup playoffs in all five seasons.

“They’re going to come to win,” Schmid said. “I expect that they’re going to come with their best team, strongest team. If they have somebody who’s carrying an injury, it’s a possibility they might hold off on that guy.”

LA midfielder Juninho will miss the game due to a suspension for yellow card accumulation. Reportedly, so will defender Todd Dunivant because of injury, while the health status of Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez is still up in the air.

Without Juninho, the starting central midfield pair that has started together in 30 matches this season will be broken up, as Marcelo Sarvas will likely be paired with veteran Pablo Mastroeni instead.

“Juninho’s a big part of their team. Juninho and Sarvas both have huge work rates. They both cover a lot of ground,” Schmid said. “Juninho and Sarvas understand each other. They’ve played together all season and there’s a good understanding that’s developed there.”

For the Sounders, decisions still need to be made about Obafemi Martins, Leo Gonzalez and Mauro Rosales, while Djimi Traore and Eddie Johnson appear ready to play on Sunday.

To Johnson, the match with LA is another challenge that the Seattle forward is prepared to face head-on.

“We know it’s going to be a difficult game. They’re the defending champs twice in a row. But we’re here, the packed house … it doesn’t get bigger than that,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the game and I know my teammates are as well.”

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