SEATTLE -- We're just a few hours away from tonight's Western Conference Championship Second Leg between the LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders FC.
Remember, the Galaxy hold a 3-0 aggregate lead on Seattle and away goals DO NOT count in this competition. Over 43,000 are expected at rainy and cold CenturyLink Field tonight as Seattle look to fight their way back into the series and prevent LA from advancing to MLS Cup.
Also, the Galaxy will be wearing white tonight against Seattle's rave green.
As we get close to game time, check out some my observations and links to get you to kick off...
*The forecast calls for temperatures in the low 50s with plenty of rain, but according to the Galaxy that suits them just fine.
*Key to LA's success in the first leg was the play of goalkeeper Josh Saunders, who will likely be under plenty of pressure on Sunday night.
*Tommy Meyer will get his first look at the cauldron that is CenturyLink Field and he is relishing the challenge of playing in front of the Seattle crowd.
*For a more general look at the game, LAGalaxy.com staff writer Larry Morgan offers his game preview.
Omar Gonzalez/Tommy Meyer vs. Fredy Montero/Eddie Johnson
The most important match up of the night as LA's in-form centerbacks look to hold down a Seattle offensive tandem that is desperate to help Seattle claw back into the series
Christian Wilhelmsson vs. Zach Scott
According to Sigi Schmid after the second leg, the Galaxy "found a lot of joy" against Scott in the first leg and expect Wilhelmsson and right back Sean Franklin to attack him at will.
The two veteran coaches are facing a major battle of wits as Schmid attempts to break down Arena's organized Galaxy side that will be eager to hit Seattle on the break.
PREDICTED LINEUP: Saunders; Franklin, Gonzalez, Meyer, Dunivant; Magee, Sarvas, Beckham, Wilhelmsson; Buddle, Keane
*Lastly, check out my Three Points to the game
MLSsoccer.com has issued a pair of video previews from both sides of the aisle ahead of tonight's Western Conference Championship Second Leg between LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders FC.
Check them out below.
Seattle Sounders FC: Eddie Johnson, Brad Evans and Sigi Schmid
LA Galaxy: Todd Dunivant, Marcelo Sarvas and Bruce Arena
Whether Seattle Sounders FC will be able to call upon star midfielder Mauro Rosales for Sunday’s Western Conference Semifinal Second Leg is still up in the air, but the LA Galaxy are prepared, should the Argentine be ready to play.
In his first year with Seattle, the Argentine has provided an important cog in the midfield for Seattle either closer to goal or on the flanks, tallying an impressive 13 assists on the year. He has also had great success against the Galaxy this season, tallying three assists in three appearances against LA this season—all three coming in Seattle’s two victories at CenturyLink Field when the Sounders outscored LA a combined 6-0 in the two matches.
However, the Argentine’s productivity tailed off at the end of the season with the Argentine failing to notch an assist since Seattle’s Aug. 25 win over Chivas before picking up a right hamstring strain in the Western Conference Semifinal First Leg against Real Salt Lake.
Should Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid choose to throw on Rosales as the Sounders look to overcome a three goal deficit against LA, the Galaxy are keenly aware that they must be wary of the Argentine.
“Rosales has been out for a few weeks, so we’ll see how he does when he comes back in, but he’s a good player, he’s an important player for them,” said midfielder David Beckham. “They like to lump balls forward, get players in the box and cross balls because a lot of their goals have come from crosses and headers this year. I think we have…four players [in the back] playing very well. [Omar Gonzalez and Tommy Meyer] have been playing well and it’s up to us to overcome what they throw at us.”
One of the players, who will likely be tasked with defending the Argentine will be LA left back Todd Dunivant, who admits he faces a stiff test if Rosales plays on Sunday.
“Rosales is as good as it gets in this league in terms of wide players and getting service in the box,” said Dunivant. “He’s got double digit assists and he’s really connected well with especially Eddie Johnson this year, but he’s connected well with Montero too. He’s kind of the engine that keeps them going and missing them as hurt them a lot.”
SEATTLE – On Sunday night, the LA Galaxy know that to qualify for the MLS Cup Final, they must not only get through a hyper-motivated Seattle Sounders FC side and silence the raucous CenturyLink Field crowd, but also battle through the Seattle rain.
When the Galaxy arrived in the Pacific Northwest on Saturday afternoon, the weather was prototypical Seattle fare with a cold wind and steady rain. By the time kick off rolls around on Sunday evening, the forecast calls for much of the same with rain and temperatures in the low-50s expected.
“It’s exactly what we expected; you know what you’re getting up here,” said Todd Dunivant on Saturday after the team landed in Seattle. “I don’t think it favors one team or another, but it is what it is.”
How players react to the cold and wet weather remains to be seen, but even the Galaxy players from warm climes admit that they were ready for the frigid temps.
“We knew that it’d be cold and there would be wind,” said midfielder Marcelo Sarvas. “It’s actually good weather to play soccer, it’s not the best for me,” but it is good weather. It’s not hot, it’s comfortable.”
While the cold may not be ideal for the midfielder from Brazil, Englishman David Beckham is excited about the prospect of playing in the wet weather.
“I love it, I love playing in the rain. I hope it is cold, I hope it’s wet and it’ll be a nice night hopefully,” said Beckham on Friday. “It’s a lot easier playing in rain then it is running around in the heat. I’m sure it will [rain], the forecast calls is rain so we’ll see.
Beckham isn’t alone in his excitement as forward Robbie Keane believes that the wet field could serve the Galaxy well.
“If it’s raining, that’s something that I’m used to,” said forward Robbie Keane. “It won’t really affect me, but I like playing when it’s raining because the pitch is a lot faster and moves the ball a lot quicker and the way that we play, I think that could suit us because we like to get the ball down and play quick, so that could only help us. Of course, they’ll have an advantage because they’re used to playing on that pitch on a regular basis, but for us, that’s the way we play—quick and fast—so I think it could help us."
A Seattle Sounders FC spokesman told Seattle Times reporter Joshua Mayers on Saturday evening that more than 43,000 tickets have been sold for Sunday's Western Conference Championship Second Leg between Seattle and the LA Galaxy.
At the present capacity, the match would not only set a Sounders FC postseason attendance record, but also be the highest attended playoff game -- that was not a final -- in MLS history,
The prospect of the number increasing dramatically through a walk-up crowd is unlikely as the weather, a bridge closure as well as LA's 3-0 victory in the first leg are expected to take a toll on attendance.
SEATTLE - We're a little more than 24 hours from the Western Conference Championship Second Leg at CenturyLink Field, but to get as you get ready for tomorrow's match, be sure to check out my Three Points to the match.
Sunday's match promises to be an offensive game as Seattle Sounders FC look to erase a three goal deficit to the LA Galaxy, but how LA deal with that pressure will ultimately decide the match.
Agree or Disagree with my observations?
Share your thoughts below.
SEATTLE— Bruce Arena spoke to the media at the LA Galaxy’s hotel prior to the club’s final training session ahead of Sunday’s Western Conference Championship Second Leg match against Seattle Sounders FC.
The Galaxy head coach touched on a number of topics including the club’s injury situation, the mindset of Seattle head into the match, and a multitude of other issues.
Arena’s complete thoughts are below…
(On whether there was an update on Landon Donovan, Edson Buddle and Juninho…)
ARENA: “I think everyone is doing well. We’ll make that decision tomorrow, but our guys are all here and we’ll get on the field and see how everyone is feeling.”
(On what he hopes to gain from the training session today…)
ARENA: “We just know that they’re training and ready to go.”
(On what the team gains from traveling the complete squad…)
ARENA: “It’s good for our team spirit. Our whole group has contributed to our success to date—our young players got us through the champions league and throughout the season as have others so it’s nice that we’re able to accommodate everyone and have them here. We think it’s important, we did the same thing when we went to San Jose.”
(On his expectations of the game…)
ARENA: “It’ll be crazy. It’s always crazy when you play here. It’ll be a good crowd, the weather conditions will be probably similar to what they are now. It can be just a hectic afternoon or evening of soccer.”
(On his plans for Saturday’s training…)
ARENA: “Most of our guys have played here before so we’ll probably train for around an hour and we’ll just let them get used to the field again, the conditions, and to get a little bit of the travel out of their system.”
(On Eddie Johnson and Fredy Montero only playing together a half this postseason and their ability to unlock LA’s defense…)
ARENA: “They’ve played together a lot; I don’t think they’re going to be looking like they don’t know each other. They’re good players and one would suspect that they’re going to get some chances. But our team is playing well, our backline has been solid, we’re not going to make anything easy. They have a good team and one would expect that they’re going to get chances.”
(On what it is like to face a team with nothing to lose…)
ARENA: “I think that’s an odd statement, it’s like we’re the ones that have all the odds against us. We do have a three goal advantage and I do think that they have something to lose. I don’t understand that rationale at all.”
(On Seattle having nothing to lose because they have to erase the deficit…)
ARENA: “That doesn’t sound like they have nothing to lose, it sounds like they have a lot to lose…I’m going to not even get into that debate, it seems like one of the oddest statements that I’ve ever heard—“they have nothing to lose.” We all have something to lose, they have something to lose, and we have something to lose. It’s an important game for both teams; both teams want to advance to the MLS Cup Final. Both teams have a lot to lose. I don’t mind being the team that happens to have the three goal advantage at this point.”
(On whether LA’s situation was a decent situation to be in…)
ARENA: “I think that we have a little bit of an edge in that regard, but anything can happen in this game and we’ll be prepared to play hard, play well and try to win the game.”
(On what he saw from Seattle’s match with Real Salt Lake in the 2011 playoffs…)
ARENA: “I haven’t watched it. I saw a couple of clips, but I haven’t watched that game.”
The LA Galaxy touched down in the wet and windy Pacific Northwest on Saturday afternoon ahead of Sunday's Western Conference Championship Second Leg against Seattle Sounders FC.
Will have more coverage from the team after their media availability later this afternoon.
As a change of pace, rather than post a photo of the Seattle cityscape, below is a photo from Seattle Times' reporter Joshua Mayers of the reception that Sounders FC received outside their training facility this morning...
Here's what the Sounders saw after practice today, with fans chanting and flags waving... twitter.com/joshuamayers/s…
— Joshua Mayers (@joshuamayers) November 17, 2012
CARSON, Calif. – Yes, the LA Galaxy hold a 3-0 series lead on aggregate in their Western Conference Championship Series with Seattle Sounders FC heading into the second leg, but they are not interested in hanging back to hold their lead in Sunday’s match at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.
The temptation heading into the second leg could be to drop numbers in the box in an attempt to clog the passing lanes and limit scoring opportunities for Sounders FC. But throughout the week, the Galaxy have shunned any talk of a defensive-first approach.
“If you take that approach and go with that mentality than you’re going to keep that throughout the whole game and you don’t want to do that,” said goalkeeper Josh Saunders. “You want to go out and try to win the game.”
One potential blue print – although that is up for debate – is Seattle’s 2011 Western Conference Semifinal Second Leg against Real Salt Lake. During the match, Sounders FC peppered the net in hopes of erasing a similar 3-0 deficit, but was unable to find the tying third goal to even the series.
Ahead of Sunday’s second leg, the Galaxy have watched tape of that performance and expect to learn from Salt Lake’s game plan.
“We know what the game is going to look like, it’s very clear,” said Landon Donovan. “If we don’t do a good job of putting them back on their heels and attacking them then they can have wave after wave of attack against us and when that happens, they have talented players that can make plays and it’ll be a dangerous game.
“We don’t want to fall into that, we don’t want a game where we’re giving up 30 shots like Salt Lake did last year and squeaking our way through,” Donovan added. “We want to put them on the back foot a little bit and we think that we have the quality to do that.”
With that attacking quality in mind, Donovan is adamant that there will be no defensive shell for LA.
“I didn’t grow up as a defender, I’m not going there to defend for 90 minutes, I’m going there to try to do my part to help us defend, but I’m going there to help us score goals and make plays,” said Donovan. “Robbie [Keane] is the same, Mike Magee is the same, David [Beckham] is the same, even guys like Juni and Christian Wilhelmsson are the same so that’s our mentality.”
CARSON, Calif. – Landon Donovan is still listed on the LA Galaxy’s injury report as questionable with right hamstring tightness, but the Galaxy captain is optimistic that he’ll be able to return to the field in Sunday’s decisive Western Conference Championship Second Leg against Seattle Sounders FC.
Donovan suffered the injury during the closing stages of LA’s 3-0 victory over Sounders FC last Sunday, which ultimately caused him to exit the game at the 84th minute. Since the issue arouse, Donovan has seen limited action in training, admitting he “started exercising again” on Friday but was optimistic that he could participate in the second leg.
“I think that if you asked me on Sunday, I would have said there is very little chance, but now I’m a lot more optimistic,” said Donovan on Friday. “We’re going to take it day by day and see how it goes. Obviously, we travel up tomorrow, we’ll see how much I can do tomorrow and then the hope is that Sunday I’ll be able to go. “
Donovan described his hamstring as being in “not perfect shape” and a result of an accumulation of various knocks throughout the season but admitted that his strain was not severe as it could have been. However, if Donovan is unable to start or dress for the match, the Galaxy captain believes that LA’s bench can step up in his stead.
“We do have full confidence and as we’ve said all year, we have a group of 20-odd players that can do the job,” said Donovan. “In a perfect world, obviously everybody is healthy and available and I think Seattle would say the same thing, but that’s what happens this time of year and that’s why you spend so much time developing the roster. “
While some may believe that Donovan should take a cautious approach to his injury with LA on the brink of the MLS Cup Final, the Galaxy captain is quick to disagree.
“I don’t really subscribe to that theory because I’ve been a part of too many soccer games to know that anything can happen, so if we say ‘let’s play it safe and not play myself or Juni or Edson or anybody,” you might be out of it and the season will be over,” said Donovan. “I’d rather put myself on the line a little bit and make sure that we advance and worry about the rest later as opposed to hoping that we get through the series and rest for the final.”