After capturing their first-ever win at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Denver earlier this week, now the Galaxy could complete the week with their third win in eight days, and first ever against the Seattle Sounders FC. Granted the teams have only met twice previously, and in both occasions the Galaxy appeared to be overmatched. LA were fortunate to earn a 1-1 draw in Seattle last season, and then you may recall met the Sounders at the HDC in August, when David Beckham received an early red card for a tackle against Peter Vagenas. Final score: 2-0, Seattle.
Expect things to go a little different this time around.
It wasn’t the prettiest of performances in Denver on Wednesday night, but at the end of the day LA still earned the three points. I believe it was mentioned during the broadcast that the last 20 minutes of the match was all one-way traffic for the Rapids, There were several chances for the home team to tally the equalizer. This was the part of the match where the altitude seemed to take effect on the visiting team, but credit to the Galaxy for some scrappy defending during those final minutes.
For the opening 45 minutes, LA’s offense looked like the team that is unbeaten so far in 2010. After creating several chances in the opening minutes, Alan Gordon came through with his first strike of the year in the 21st minute. A beautiful diving header was all that the Galaxy needed to take the lead into the halftime break.
But what happened in the second half?
That will be a concern for the Galaxy heading to the Pacific Northwest. You might be able to say that LA still has not put together a full 90 minutes this year. They have played some very good, if not great soccer at times, but there a few things that one could point to in each of the games, where they either let off the gas or lost focus mentally for a moment. The result was usually the same, putting the defenders and goalkeeper Donovan Rickets under pressure for a 15-20 minute period. You can go all the way back to the opening game of the year against New England. The Revolution had chances to tie the game in the second half, and just did not finish them. Look through the rest of the results up till now and you won’t see it in the score line, but you can see it in the game tape. Maybe that changes on Saturday.
Taking a glance at Seattle, they are easily one of the teams that will challenge the Galaxy in the West. After an incredible first year in the league, Sigi Schmid’s team continues to build in every aspect of the game. Like Bruce Arena’s Galaxy team, Seattle is very strong defensively, and it starts with goalkeeper Kasey Keller. Keller brings everything you want in a goalkeeper; despite the fact he is getting older. Good shot stopper, excellent distribution, strong on crosses and his leadership on and off the field is first class.
Sitting in front of Keller is the central defense pairing of Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Tyrone Marshall. Both are athletic players that can challenge some of the best strikers MLS has to offer. I worked a broadcast in the second week of the MLS season, when the Sounders hosted New York. Red Bulls forward Juan Pablo Angel, arguably one of the best strikers and pure finishers in this league, was held in check by the Sounders’ two central defenders for the entire match.
In the attack for Seattle, there are three weapons that concern me for the Galaxy. Fredy Montero, Freddie Ljungberg and Steve Zakuani. Montero is usually the benefactor of all the work Ljungberg and Zakuani do from the wide areas in the field. Ljungberg is truly the engine for the team’s attack. When he is buzzing around and finding space to receive the ball in the final third of the field, usually Seattle is creating numerous chances on goal. Zakuani has incredible pace, allowing him to run with the ball at defenders. The second year player has learned to vary his runs as well, thus keeping the defenders on their heels. You thought Omar Cummings of the Rapids showed some good speed last game; Zakuani might be a step faster. Then you have the Columbian, Fredy Montero. He has shown that he can beat you in many different ways. Yes, he can find a loose ball in the box to finish, but his free kick abilities might be of more concern for the Galaxy. Montero can hit a very good ball, and has a knack for putting good movement on it as well.
If you have been following along with this column the past few weeks, you are going to say I keep saying this, but this will be the toughest challenge LA has faced this year. Well, it is true. With each win comes an even bigger bulls-eye on the back of the Galaxy players. Teams already enjoy beating LA, but now that they went to MLS Cup last year, and jumped out to the best start in the league this year, opponents once again want to put one over on the Galaxy.
Let’s just hope the Galaxy respond as they have at nearly every turn so far here in 2010… with another win.