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Three Key Match-Ups: at LA Galaxy

The final match of this week’s edition of Soccer Sunday in MLS will be a clash between Sounders FC and one of its biggest rivals, the LA Galaxy. Seattle’s opponent is unbeaten in its last 21 home matches, dating back to the very first game of the 2014 season.

Here are three matchups that could be crucial to the Sounders on Sunday as they attempt to end the Galaxy’s unbeaten streak at the StubHub Center.

Clint Dempsey vs. LA centerbacks

The Rave Green have scored a half dozen goals in their last four matches against the Galaxy, and Dempsey was involved in all but one of them. So far this season, Dempsey has tallied three goals and a pair of assists in three games. LA counters with a backline that was tied for the fewest goals conceded in 2014 and returned all of its starters this season. However, the Galaxy is just 1-2-2 after five matches, and some of its defenders haven’t been fully healthy. Starting centerback Leonardo, for one, missed last weekend’s clash with Vancouver due to a quad strain that could limit his availability on Sunday.

Tyrone Mears vs. Jose Villarreal

Villarreal is another key player for LA who recently suffered a minor injury, but Head Coach Bruce Arena insists the 21-year-old will be ready to go on Sunday. The club’s second Homegrown Player, Villarreal has started in all four of his appearances this season and leads the Galaxy with two assists. He has mainly been playing on the left wing, where he’d be going against Mears in this match. Mears has been a strong addition to the Sounders FC backline, helping the club keep three clean sheets in its first four matches.

Stefan Frei vs. LA forwards

Last year, the Rave Green didn’t earn their third shutout until the 12th match of the season. Not only has the backline shown improvements in 2015, but also Head Coach Sigi Schmid has praised the growth of Frei as the team’s starting goalkeeper. Frei practices against the likes of Dempsey and Obafemi Martins in training every day, and on Sunday, he’ll be up against another star-studded group of forwards. Robbie Keane is the reigning MLS MVP, while fellow striker Gyasi Zardes scored 16 goals in 2014, the highest single-season total recorded by a Homegrown Player in MLS history.