Sunday’s clash between Sounders FC and the LA Galaxy is the first of three matchups between the two Western Conference giants and the first since four crucial fixtures at the end of last season.
LA and Seattle have the two highest point totals in MLS regular-season play since the Rave Green joined the league in 2009. They were the two best teams in 2014, battling for the Supporters’ Shield during the final two weekends of the regular season and facing each other again in the Western Conference Championship.
Seattle earned its first Shield in 2014 – along with its fourth Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title – but the Galaxy went on to win the MLS Cup, giving the Rave Green a bit of motivation heading into this Sunday’s contest.
“Every season is a new season, so you try and put that behind you,” Sounders FC defender Chad Marshall said. “But I think some guys will be thinking about it a little bit as we go down there.”
“We’ll probably talk about that a little bit as we get closer to the game,” Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “We want to make sure that we establish ourselves and put ourselves in a position to get past LA or whoever that obstacle is on the way to an MLS Cup.”
Sounders FC hasn’t won at LA since its inaugural season in 2009, but on Sunday it will face a Galaxy squad that has lost a pair of key players from last year’s team in Landon Donovan and Marcelo Sarvas.
Donovan, the league’s all-time scoring leader, retired following the 2014 season. Sarvas, who was traded to the Colorado Rapids during the offseason, was a regular starter in each of his three years with the Galaxy, recording three goals and 11 assists in 2014.
Seattle lost just one starter from last year’s squad – right back DeAndre Yedlin – and replaced him with Barclays Premier League veteran Tyrone Mears.
Steven Gerrard is set to join the Galaxy this summer, but in the meantime, LA has been experimenting with a number of different combinations in the midfield. Bruce Arena’s squad is 1-2-2 so far and has been held scoreless in back-to-back matches for the first time since 2012.
“I expect to see a hungry team. I know Bruce, and he’s not happy right now,” Schmid said. “They’re a team that has a lot of pride. They’re the defending champions. They just haven’t had a good run lately, so they’re a team that’s going to highly motivated.”
All three of this season’s matchups between the Rave Green and the Galaxy are being nationally televised. Sunday’s game will air on FOX Sports 1, with kickoff scheduled for 4:00 p.m. PT from the StubHub Center.