CARSON, Calif. – Two arch-rivals with a bitter, postseason history meet again Wednesday when the defending MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy travel to Seattle’s CenturyLink Field to take on the Sounders (7 p.m., UniMas) in a Western Conference knockout-round game.
The winner moves on to face either the Vancouver Whitecaps or FC Dallas in the semifinals and the loser goes home.
The Galaxy and Sounders have met three times in the last five years in the postseason and the Galaxy have won all of the series, including last year’s Western Conference Championship.
The Galaxy also won this season’s series 2-0-1, with the 1-1 tie in Seattle on Oct. 4 – thanks to a stunning, stoppage-time goal by the Sounders’ Chad Barrett – securing a playoff berth.
But Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena repeatedly insisted to reporters this week the history between the two sides means nothing. Nor should anyone put any emphasis on his team’s recent slide that featured just one victory in the last seven games (1-4-2) or a dismal regular season road record of 2-9-6.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said in referring to a slump that took the Galaxy from the league’s best record to the No. 5 seed in the West. “Doesn’t matter. Haven’t even thought about it, to be honest with you.
“We have a game Wednesday that we’re playing.”
Galaxy captain Robbie Keane, whose 20th goal of the season in Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City set a career high, said the postseason success against the Sounders could work to the Galaxy’s favor.
To a point.
“It doesn’t matter because the playoffs are different,” he said. “But the good thing is we know we can go there and win the game … because we’ve done it in the past.
“We’ve played so much there we kind of know the field probably more than anybody else in this league. No excuses now. We have to go there and give it our best and make sure we come out of there with a win.”
Keane said he understood if the Sounders, who finished the regular season with a resounding 3-1 victory over visiting Real Salt Lake on Sunday, were thought to have an edge Wednesday.
“Seattle is probably a slight favorite,” he said, “but they’ve got a lot to lose as well. People are probably expecting them to get through, but we’re certainly going to be there to upset the apple cart.”
The Galaxy’s Alan Gordon said he couldn’t agree more. The Galaxy may have not been in their best form of late, but he was confident he and his teammates would respond to the challenge ahead.
“The good thing is we have a lot of champions in our locker room and I have a lot of faith in the guys that are there and the group we have,” he said. “When push comes to shove, when your backs are up against the wall, there’s guys you want on your team and we have a lot of those guys on our team.
“I’m looking forward to Wednesday. I think you’re going to see the championship mentality come out, the fight and the passion. I think big-time players respond when their backs are up against the wall. I know I’m ready to fight and battle and do what I can to help this team get an important road victory.”
The Galaxy’s Steven Gerrard, new to this playoff drama after spending the entirety of his club career in the English Premier League, said he expects no changes in the series marked by hard-fought battles.
“For me it’s a 50-50 game,” he said. “Whoever plays better on the night and takes their chances wins this game.”
SEATTLE SOUNDERS vs. LA GALAXY
CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.
October 28, 2015 (2015 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, Knockout Round)
7 p.m. ET (UniMás in US, TSN2, RDS2 in Canada, JOEtv)
- LA and Seattle return to CenturyLink Field, the site of last year’s Western Conference Championship second leg in which the Galaxy advanced past Seattle to MLS Cup on away goals.
- LA head into the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs in the midst of a three-game winless run but can look to their postseason record against Seattle (4-2) as a sign of hope.
- After a stretch in the summer in which Seattle suffered through a five-game losing streak, the Sounders are 5-1-4 since Aug. 22 and are currently on an eight-game unbeaten run (4-0-4). The Sounders will also benefit greatly from home-field advantage. The club averaged a record-breaking attendance of 44,247 at CenturyLink Field this season and finished the year with the third most home wins in MLS (11).
- LA Galaxy forward Robbie Keane finished the season with a career-high 20 goals in the regular season (25 in all competitions) to finish third in the Audi Golden Boot race and has notched six goals and three assists in nine career games against Seattle.
- Keane will be joined by teammates who will be experiencing their first taste of the MLS postseason. Midseason acquisitions Giovani dos Santos, Steven Gerrard and Sebastian Lletget have combined for 12 goals and 10 assists.
- Seattle will rely on their fearsome forward line of Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins, who connected for a pair of goals on #DecisionDay. The attacking duo will hope goalkeeper Stefan Frei carries his excellent regular-season form over to the postseason. Frei enjoyed a career year in 2015, posting career bests in goals against average (1.08), shutouts (10) and saves (111).
CHECK OUT THE INJURY REPORT HEADING INTO THE MATCH
CHECK OUT THE DISCIPLINARY REPORT HEADING INTO THE MATCH