LA Galaxy look to maintain advantage over Seattle

Despite pressure from Sounders, Galaxy still atop MLS standings

birchall_sea

Photo Credit: 
Robert Mora / LA Galaxy

CARSON, Calif. – The rivalry is barely into its third year of existence, but there’s something brewing between the LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders FC, who renew acquaintances in a much-anticipated Western Conference showdown on Monday at The Home Depot Center (7:30 p.m., ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, ESPN3.com).

“It’s definitely starting to take off,” said Mike Magee, who has been Mr. Everything for the Galaxy in recent days, having played emergency goalkeeper in last Saturday’s 0-0 tie at San Jose and scoring the game-winning goal in Tuesday’s 2-1 victory over the USL Pro’s Los Angeles Blues in a third-round U.S. Open Cup match. “I think they made it clear from the moment they came into this league they kind of had it out for us. They made some comments to the press, but besides that they’re a very good team."

“They’re one of the teams that’s been kind of closing the gap on us the last couple of weeks. It’s a six-point game and a home game, so we have to win.”

The budding rivalry has been decidedly in favor of the Galaxy, who have won the last five MLS meetings (including playoffs) between the clubs. Adding fuel to the fire is the fact the Galaxy (9-2-8, 35 points) not only knocked the Sounders (8-4-7, 31 points) out of the MLS Cup Playoffs last year, but they beat them again in the 2011 regular season opener on March 15 at Seattle’s Qwest Field.

“I think they’re going to want to come in here and kill us,” Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez said. “They definitely have some things on their mind.”

That could work in the Galaxy’s favor, midfielder Chris Birchall said.

“They can use that as an incentive, but I think it’s to our advantage that we know we play well against them,” he said. “Maybe we’re a team that they fear and get the better of them every time.

“In the mind games, we’re probably one up on them.”

Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant said there’s always been a different feel when the franchises meet.

“Fortunately we’ve had the better of the games,” he said. “But every game is heated and intense with two of probably the better markets in the league. Yeah, there’s going to be a lot of fanfare around it. I think most of the games we play against them are on ESPN, so it’s always a little bit extra.

“So far, so good for us.”

Dunivant said the importance of Monday’s game between the conference powers should not be underestimated, the growing rivalry notwithstanding.

“Beyond the history that we’ve had they’re right on our tail in the West, and that’s important,” he said. They’ve had three wins in a row and that’s allowed them to climb the standings really quickly. They’re right with us now; that’s good for the league and good for this game.”

Added Birchall, “I think in the last few weeks they’ve slowly and quietly risen to the top of the league. We’ve got a great record against them, but it’s just the way we go out and play against them. (Head coach) Bruce (Arena) has got the tactics right every time, and the right personnel.

“It can’t go on forever. There’s going to be a time when we slip up against them, but hopefully not this Monday.”

 

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