What We Learned From LA Image

Sounders return to Los Angeles to take on the Galaxy

The two clubs have been rivals for some time now and will renew those pleasantries on national TV this Sunday night.

Sounders FC @ LA Galaxy
May 26, 2013, 8 pm PT, Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
TV/Radio: ESPN2; KIRO Radio 97.3 FM; ESPN Deportes (Spanish)

On Sunday when the Sounders FC faces the LA Galaxy on ESPN2, it will be the first match of the season between the two teams that have resided atop the Major League Soccer landscape over the last five seasons.

The Sounders FC has plenty of reason to use matches with the LA Galaxy as a measuring stick for where they stand. Since Seattle entered MLS in 2009, the Galaxy have the best record in the league and they have won two MLS Cups, so the standard of measure is quite lofty.

“It’s a real good test for us against the champions,” said Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning. “LA Galaxy is always a tough team, especially to play in LA. It’s a good test to see how far we are now.”

If there is any team in the league that can meet the benchmark set by LA, it’s the Sounders, who have the second-best record in the league in that time. And while they don’t have the MLS Cup titles to show for it, Seattle has created a winning environment with their three US Open Cup titles and strong play in the CONCACAF Champions League.

They are also slowly creeping back to an even head-to-head record with the Galaxy in their all-time series. LA leads the all-time series at 4-3-2, but the Sounders won two of three matches last year and split the playoff series with the Galaxy, though LA advanced with a 4-2 aggregate victory.

Both teams are different than the squads that met in the Western Conference Championship last year, but they have kept the winning mentality intact. They both reached the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals and, while both teams have had their bad stretches, remain two of the more feared opponents in the league.

A matchup with the Galaxy means contending with two of the league’s best players in Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan.

“Robbie Keane, when he is on form, is probably the best player in the league,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “Landon Donovan is certainly hungry and amibitous right now because he’d like to get back into the National Team and he knows his way in is by having good performances in league play. They’re a hungry team that way.”

Even with that talent, though, they have struggled lately, going 1-3-0 in their last four matches.

The Sounders know that record isn’t indicative of the play of the Galaxy though and are prepared for their best.

“We are not making the mistake to underestimate LA. They are a great team and it’s tough to play against them,” Gspurning said.

Added Schmid of their recent skid, “I don’t too much stock in that. They’re a quality team. They’re in every game that they’ve been playing in. It’s going to be a tough game. I don’t think there’s a good time to play them. It’s always going to be a tough game.”

Meanwhile the Sounders couldn’t be hotter. After a 4-2 win over FC Dallas on Saturday, they have gone unbeaten in their last six matches and have won three straight.

Those three wins have come against quality opposition too, posting a road victory over Sporting Kansas City before returning home for a 4-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes and the win over Dallas. That gives them momentum going into the clash with the Galaxy, but they will be ready for a battle.

“I think the team’s finally starting to gel and finally starting to play together,” said midfielder Shalrie Joseph. “We’re at their place, so we’re expecting it to be a really crazy environment. We’ll expect them to come out really high from the start of the whistle and we’ll just have to match that and be ready to play.”