Galaxy confident as they head north for first leg against Seattle

LA focused on Sounders ahead of Sunday’s postseason opener

Dunivant vs Seattle Sounders

Photo Credit: 
Robert Mora

CARSON, Calif. – A great deal has transpired in
the four months since the LA Galaxy last played Seattle Sounders FC.

The Galaxy
hit a flat stretch during the middle third of the regular season, but still
went on to win the coveted Supporters’ Shield for owning the best record in
MLS. The Sounders, on the other hand, have fashioned MLS’ best record over the
last half of the season (10-2-3, compared to the Galaxy’s 7-6-2) and enter
Sunday’s first leg of their Western Conference Semifinal Series matchup with LA
with considerable momentum.

The
Sounders’ late-season push is something that has not gone unnoticed in these
parts.

“They’re a
very good team,” the Galaxy’s Mike Magee said. “They play really well at home,
they’ll have probably 40,000 fans there and they play well on that turf.

“The last
time we went [to Qwest Field]” – a 4-0 win on May 8 – “we got a good result,
and that probably left a bad taste in their mouths. We have to have a good
mentality this time.”

Galaxy head
coach Bruce Arena said it’s not so much that the Sounders have made a number of
changes but that they have jelled at the right time.

“Let’s face
it,” he said. “There’re no secrets at this point. We all know each other, we’ve
seen each other play throughout the season."

“We’re well
aware of the qualities of the Sounders, and I’m sure they’re well aware of our
qualities as well.”

Defender
Todd Dunivant said he isn’t sure what the Galaxy can learn from its two
victories over Seattle this season (including a 3-1 victory at The Home Depot
Center on July 4), but he did concede the Sounders, who beat LA 2-0 in the U.S.
Open Cup Quarterfinals in Tukwila, Wash. on July 7, are “dangerous.”

“They’ve
been hot the second half of the year,” Dunivant said. “But it all comes down to
how you play in the playoffs. Momentum aside, it matters who comes out in these
first two games and wins the series.”

Magee said
the Sounders look particularly formidable in the counterattack, thanks to the
likes of Fredy Montero and Steve Zakuani, who have combined for 20 goals and 16
assists on the season, and speed on the wings in the form of Sanna Nyassi.

Magee was
asked how he knew so much about the Sounders.

“It’s our
playoff opponent,” he said with a grin. “You have to.”

Seattle
(14-10-6), who surpassed their 2009 totals in wins, shutouts and points, lost
defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado in May to a season-ending torn knee ligament,
Nate Jaqua missed the first half of the season because of abdominal surgery and
Freddie Ljungberg was traded to the Chicago Fire on July 30. But the emergence of
former Galaxy draft pick Nathan Sturgis and the post-World Cup addition of
former FC Twente striker Blaise N’kufo (5 goals in 11 games) have solidified
the squad, as has the new-look central defensive pairing of Jeff Parke and
Patrick Ianni. And there’s always Kasey Keller in goal, with his 11 shutouts
and a 1.15 goals-against average this season.

“I think
they’ve got a good balance in their attack,” Arena said, “and they’re been
pretty solid defensively. Their speed on the flanks has been dangerous for them
and they have two guys in front of the goal who can finish off plays.

“They’ve
been a well-balanced team and they’ve been able to have a little continuity in
their lineup. In our case, that hasn’t happened basically all year. That’s
another reason why they’ve been successful.”

Magee said
it didn’t matter that the Galaxy faces such a tough foe this early in the
postseason.

“You gotta
go with the best teams,” he said. “I don’t think you’re going to find teams at
this point of the season that aren’t going to give you a good battle.

“If you’re
looking to win the championship, you have to beat the next-best team.”

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