The Seattle Sounders visit the LA Galaxy on Saturday (7:00 p.m. PT; ESPN2, YouTube TV, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360AM) in Week 24 MLS action. Here are three matchups to watch, presented by Toyota.
Sounders back line vs. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
It’s not exactly a secret how the Galaxy score most of their goals. Their hulking Swedish striker is one of the very best to ever play the game and he’s not exactly slowing down in his age-37 season. Zlatan comes into this matchup with 18 goals in 20 games, a season after he entered the league by piling up 22 goals and 10 assists in 27 games. Needless to say, the Sounders back line will have its hands full trying to stop him. Neutralize him, though, and Seattle’s chances of getting a result vastly improve, making this the matchup that could very well define the contest.
Kelvin Leerdam vs. Cristian Pavón
The Galaxy also have a shiny new toy in recently acquired Argentine attacker Cristian Pavón, who comes to the league with plenty of pedigree. He’s a dynamic goal-scoring threat in his own right, with 21 goals for Boca Juniors prior to his move the Galaxy. The Galaxy play him as an inverted left winger, meaning it will largely fall on the Sounders’ right back to handle his side of the field and try and snuff out the attacks sure to come down that flank. Leerdam has been nursing an ankle injury, but he’s been on the mend along with left back counterpart Brad Smith, so the Sounders could finally stand to get their first-choice fullback pairing back on the field.
Cristian Roldan vs. Jonathan dos Santos
Dos Santos has been called the motor of the team by Zlatan himself, so his importance in the midfield for the Galaxy shouldn’t be underestimated. That should make for a good battle with Roldan, who thrives on cutting out opposing attacks, as well as winning and maintaining possession. This matchup could wind up having a pronounced ripple effect on the rest of the match, in the sense that if Roldan and Gustav Svensson – who made his first appearance back from injury as a substitute against RSL on Wednesday – can make dos Santos’ as difficult as possible, the Galaxy will have a hard time linking play with Pavón and Ibrahimovic. In that way, this bout in the midfield could be where the match is won or lost.