Last year, Kasey Keller allowed just one goal over two games (plus extratime) in Seattle's loss to Houston. His experience is an overwhelmingly positive x-factor, meaning nervousness will not be a problem.
|Donovan Ricketts had the most wins in MLS this season, was second in goals-allowed average and shutouts, and had the fifth best save percentage. He allowed just three goals in four playoff games last year, and the Jamaican ‘keeper has a 2-1-1 career record against the Seattle Sounders.|
Seattle conceded the most goals of any playoff team (35), but after July 4, about the time that Jeff Parke and Patrick Ianni began their partnership at center back, they recorded seven shutouts. James Riley is a threat down the wings, with three assists on the year.
|The Galaxy defense had 10 shutouts through June. After that, theymanaged only two. Bruce Arena has to make a choice between Gregg Berhalter and AJ De La Garza to pair with Omar Gonzalez in the middle. Berhalter presided over the first half of the season, but only recently returned from injury.|
Steve Zakuani and Sanna Nyassi can kill down the wings, but the linchpins are Nathan Sturgis and Osvaldo Alonso, who lie deep defensively and distribute with great precision.
|Landon Donovan set a career high in assists this season, and David Beckham’s service needs no introduction. Juninho does a good job of calming and creating out of middle, and Dema Kovalenko is a bona fide ball winner. The Galaxy should be able to stamp their influence on the midfield.|
Blaise Nkufo has come down from his five-goal, three-game outburst in late September/early October. The key is getting shots: In the three games in which he scored, he had nine shots; in his other eight appearances, he was held to six total shots. Fredy Montero had an MVP-worthy season with 10 goals and 10 assists.
|Edson Buddle scored a league second-best 17 goals, including three in the final five games of the season. But none of his striker partners—Jovan Kirovski (4 goals) and Tristan Bowen (2 goals)—has produced effectively.|
Sigi Schmid has a 19-8-5 record in the playoffs as well as two MLS Cup titles with the Columbus Crew in 2008 and the Galaxy in 2003. He has already won two US Open Cups with the Sounders. Few coaches in the world could outcoach him at this point.
If any coach could outcoach Schmid, it is Arena. The Galaxy boss is the only coach with a resume to rival that of his Seattle counterpart. His turnaround job last year showed his team-building skills; LA's run to the Supporters' Shield in 2010 showed his team-management talents.
The Sounders have the luxury of a World Cup semi-finalist on their bench in Uruguayan Álvaro Fernández, but Nate Jaqua has also been productive as a sub with three assists in 409 minutes this season.
|Michael Stephens has impressed in his limited looks this season, and the soon-to-retire Eddie Lewis can still be dangerous out on the wing. Mike Magee is an unpredictable attacker either in the midfield or up front. But there are limited options on the backline.|
|The Sounders finished off the regular season by winning five of their last six games. They are playing at home—upwards of 40,000 could be on hand at Qwest Field—with a national TV audience. Ergo, they have the momentum.|
|Last year's finalists rocked the Sounders in their last visit to Qwest earlier in the season, but their second-half-of-the-season struggles appear to make them vulnerable. At least as vulnerable as a Donovan-Buddle-Beckham-Gonzalez team can be.|
The Galaxy travel to Seattle this Sunday, October 31 for a 5 p.m. match against the Sounders on ESPN2/Deportes. The Galaxy will then host Seattle in the second game of the two-leg, home-and-home Western Conference Semifinals on Sunday, November 7 at 6 p.m. PT on ESPN. BUY TICKETS