SEATTLE – When the LA Galaxy drew Seattle Sounders FC in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, a unique situation arose.
In facing Seattle, the Galaxy would face the task of playing the best-supported team in Major League Soccer on their turf, and with more than 36,000 tickets sold, the atmosphere will likely be as fervent as any Sounders game this season.
Will facing such a large and anti-Galaxy crowd hurt the visitors?
“I’ve been fortunate to do that a few times. There won’t be an awe factor. It will be more of an excitement,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “It was a lot of fun last time going up there and coming out of the game in about the 80th minute and it was dead silent there, and we hope to do the same thing.”
The Galaxy beat Seattle by 4-0 before 36,273 on May 8. Donovan had a goal and added three assists in the rout. He left the game with six minutes to spare, long after the crowd was a factor in that encounter.
If the Galaxy learned anything from that game, though, it might be how to render their crowd harmless.
“They feed off their crowd and in a game like this, and obviously in a series like this every goal matters,” Donovan said. “You don’t want to allow a goal early, and, conversely, if you score a goal it really takes some venom out of their bite.”
Galaxy star David Beckham did not participate in that match and has not played against the Sounders at Qwest Field yet. Still, having played with the Galaxy at MLS Cup ’09 in Seattle gave him a taste of the kind of support the Emerald City has for their soccer team.
Beckham is not expecting a friendly environment, but it will be an enjoyable one nevertheless.
“We know what the Seattle fans are like and what the atmosphere will be like for the game,” he said. “These atmospheres are the ones you have to go out and enjoy. As much as we’re not going to have anyone cheering for us, it’s a good thing to have that kind of atmosphere playing in a game.”
Since the Sounders joined MLS, the club has had a die-hard fan base in place. This season, Seattle packed an average of 36,173 fans into Qwest Field for home games, by far the highest such total in the league.
When a lot of eyes are focused on a game, some players tend to pick up their play.
“When you see a lot of people in the stands, you want do your best because a lot of people are watching,” Galaxy forward Edson Buddle said. “You’ve got to commend the fans of Seattle for doing that all season.”
Still, for as much of a factor as a hostile crowd may seem to be, the Galaxy did not exactly include that into their game plan.
“It’s immaterial to me whether there are 36,000 people or nobody here. We have a game to play,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “If we have our concentration we don’t notice any of those people. For me personally it’s never a factor because I don’t pay attention to it.”
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