CARSON, Calif. – This season has always been about challenges for the defending MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy.
It was a challenge simply to make the playoffs, considering they once were 3-8-2 and in last place in the Western Conference. It was another challenge to rally from a 1-0 deficit for a victory in the Knockout Round against Vancouver and an even bigger one to get past the top-seeded San Jose Earthquakes in the Western Conference Semifinals, becoming just the third team in MLS history to win a Conference Semifinal after losing the first leg at home.
Now comes their latest challenge in the form of Seattle Sounders FC in the first leg of the Western Conference Championship on Sunday at The Home Depot Center (6 p.m., ESPN, ESPN Deportes, AM 1150, 1220 AM, LIVECHAT).
“They pose many, many difficulties,” the Galaxy’s David Beckham said after Saturday’s light training session. “It’s going to be a tough game, but we have a good chance of progressing if we play our game.
“It’s not going to be easy.”
In the Sounders, the Galaxy are taking on of their most fierce rivals. The Western Conference powers met three times during the regular season, with Seattle outscoring the Galaxy 6-0 in two games at CenturyLink Field before losing 1-0 in the regular season finale at The Home Depot Center on Oct. 28.
The teams also have met twice in the postseason. Those games occurred in the 2010 Western Conference Semifinals, which the Galaxy won 3-1 on aggregate before being upset by FC Dallas in the Conference Championship.
Seattle made it to this point after getting through a tense, hard-fought series with Real Salt Lake that featured only one goal, Mario Martinez’s brilliant, left-footed strike in the 81st minute of Thursday’s 1-0 victory at Rio Tinto Stadium, a win that was the club’s first-ever road win in the MLS Cup Playoffs. WATCH
“I think the first thing that stands out about them is they’re very good,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “In my opinion, along with us, I think they’ve been the best team in the league over the last stretch of the season.
“They have Eddie (Johnson) playing well, Mauro Rosales is playing well, Brad Evans is playing well, Martinez the other night. They have a lot of special players on their team, and (Fredy) Montero is always dangerous.
“They create a number of problems.”
When asked how important it is for the Galaxy to get off on the right foot in the series with the return leg scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 18 in Seattle at 6 p.m., Donovan smiled.
“As we learned in the last series, it’s 180 minutes. Potentially more,” he said, referring to the San Jose series in which the Galaxy trailed 1-0 after losing the opener at home before storming back to beat the Earthquakes on their home field. “We’re not going to get too caught up in what happens after the first game, whether it’s good or bad. We want to play well and we want to use our advantage as well.
“We think if we play well we have a good chance to win this game.
“We’re also very comfortable going on the road and getting results. No matter the environment, and we’ve proven that over the years.”
Added Galaxy midfielder Marcelo Sarvas, “It’s a 180-minute game. It’s a long journey to the final.”