The Seattle Sounders return to MLS action on Sunday, Sept. 10, at home against the LA Galaxy (6 p.m. PT; FS1, 107.7 The End, El Rey 1360 AM | TICKETS) following this past week’s FIFA international break, and it’s been a tale of two seasons for the two Western Conference rivals.
The Sounders are riding a club-record 11-match unbeaten streak and have catapulted to first place in the West table. They are outscoring their opponents 22-10, set a club record for consecutive shutout minutes and have not lost in nearly three months.
The Galaxy, meanwhile, defeated the Colorado Rapids on Sept. 2 for their first win in their last 11 matches (1-9-1). They are ninth in the West, 11 points off a playoff spot and have not beaten a team outside of the West’s bottom-dwelling Rapids since May 27.
Despite differing fortunes in 2017, the Seattle-LA rivalry is still one of the most contested and bitter in MLS, and nothing will change how the players prepare.
“The Galaxy are the Galaxy,” said Sounders captain Osvaldo Alonso on Tuesday. “Every time we play them, it doesn’t matter if they’re first, second or last in the table, they’re going to come here to play good soccer. They have a good team and good players. We have to prepare for battle Sunday night…Everybody is mentally prepared to keep rolling.”
The Sounders’ final two matches before the international break were Cascadia showdowns at Vancouver and home to Portland. Each ended in a 1-1 draw, but each was also a match from which Seattle felt it should have taken all three points.
“The last two results we were frustrated about,” said Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. “Now you have a couple performances where you think you could have done better, then you have a long break, then you try and get your team ramped back up again. It’s a big challenge.
“We learned a couple things during the break that we had learned earlier this season in June,” he continued. “We went back through our training plans and tried to decipher any clues as to what we could have done better.”
The Sounders have played three straight league matches against the Galaxy on the road and will welcome LA to CenturyLink Field for the first time since last July in Schmetzer’s first game as then-interim head coach. As for how Schmetzer and the rest of the coaching staff are preparing for their final regular-season meeting with the Galaxy, they’re drawing from each of their previous meetings this year, despite how different they were.
Schmetzer lamented the team’s inability to find the back of the net in its scoreless draw on July 29 and has been stressing the importance of capitalizing at home lest it lend LA a lifeline.
“If you get on top of the Galaxy, I think they might have a difficult time coming back,” said Schmetzer. “But if you let them hang around, just like we let Vancouver hang around and Portland hang around, then we’ll make it tough on ourselves.
“It’s a big game for a lot of reasons. It’s always one to mark on the calendar.”