Sounders digging in for fight against Galaxy

Seattle wary of strength of Shield winners, especially in counter

TUKWILA, Wash. – The Seattle Sounders are bracing for a battle when the Supporters’ Shield-winning Los Angeles Galaxy come to town to open their Western Conference semifinal series on Sunday

Defender Jeff Parke is expecting the Galaxy to play for a low-scoring game in the first leg at Qwest Field. The Sounders center back believes that in the first game of a two-leg format, the road team generally wants to escape with at least a draw, even if it’s scoreless.

With a strong counterattacking team like LA in town, the veteran defender wouldn’t be at all surprised to watch the Galaxy concede some possession and play for the counterattack.

“I think, with them being away from home, it’s tough to say that they’re going to be really aggressive,” Parke said. “Bruce [Arena] is going to have them fired up and the counterattack is lethal with Landon [Donovan] and Edson [Buddle] and [David] Beckham being able to spray them balls.”

“I think they’re going to sit in a little bit and maybe play the counter, try to get out with a 1-0 or 0-0 [result],” Parke continued. “That would really help them going back home.”

Sigi Schmid, who coached the Galaxy before a stint in Columbus and now Seattle, preached caution in the face of this opponent.

“We just have to be careful,” Schmid said. “I think earlier in the season, LA had a lot of success when they played very defensive and looked to counterattack on the odd occasion.

“It’s important for us not to get caught up in the ‘hurrah’ of going forward and expose ourselves in the back. I feel confident we can do that.”

Schmid also went on to mention that the Galaxy are not a one-dimensional team. As the season progressed, they showed they can also play a possession-based style with Michael Stephens and Juninho in the middle of midfield. While counterattacking remains a strong part of the team’s personality, it isn’t the only part.

Defender James Riley agreed, calling the Galaxy a “very balanced team” and added he doesn’t think LA are a true counterattacking team anymore.

For Riley, the key for Seattle will be navigating the early part of the game while managing the emotions of playing in front of a huge Seattle crowd.

“I think the first half will be a battle to get settled down,” he said. “Once the quality shows through—probably in the second half or so—I think you’ll see some quality soccer.”

Once that initial period passes, Parke believes getting a goal in the first game will be crucial for Seattle’s chances to advancing.

“You want to get at least a goal,” Parke said. “That means you go into the second leg and you can put the pressure on them and make them have to open up and come at you a little bit. When they open up like that, it gives you a chance to sneak one in.”

Notes:

Fredy Montero’s new house doesn’t necessarily mean he’s staying in Seattle for the long haul. Last week Montero posted in Spanish on his new Twitter account (@goleador17) that he had picked up the keys to a new house. When asked about the house on Tuesday, Montero was non-committal about his future.

“I’m not 100 percent sure about the long term, but I’m really happy,” he said. “It’s an opportunity that not everyone can have. It’s a chance to give an example to my family and to other players who aspire towards this sort of thing that it’s possible.”

Technical director Chris Henderson told the Seattle Times last week that he’s working to keep Montero a member of the Seattle Sounders. It’s likely that the Colombian’s offensive output (22 regular-season goals) and young age (24 years old) would require the club to pony up for a Designated Player’s salary.

Ready to Launch: MLS Matchday 2010, The new official MLS iPhone app. It's FREE! Download it here!