Seattle's Steve Zakuani (left) poses some interesting challenges for the Galaxy in their series opener on Sunday.
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Galaxy wary of Sounders' firepower

CARSON, Calif. – Among the challenges the Seattle Sounders pose for the LA Galaxy, it’s their stable of offensive firepower that might pose the biggest.

While the turf field, an imposing atmosphere and a solid defense could be factors in the series, it is the players leading Seattle’s charge who will pin their crosshairs on the Galaxy’s back line.

Midfielders Steve Zakuani and Sanna Nyassi and forwards Fredy Montero and Blaise Nkufo will provide LA with a wealth of challenges, but Galaxy players are confident in their ability to deal with them.

One of the main challenges is Seattle’s blazing speed on the flanks.

“Speed’s always something that’s difficult to deal with, but we’ve done it all year,” Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant said.

Zakuani had a stellar sophomore campaign. The top overall pick in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft, he had 10 goals and six assists, while the speedy Nyassi had two goals and three assists, with both goals coming in the final four games of the season.

Combined with Nkufo and Montero, Galaxy defenders will have their hands full.

“They’re very lethal up top and on the wings, so you’ve just got to be aware of that and be in good positions and hopefully take their speed away from them,” Galaxy defender A.J. DeLaGarza said. “And make them play in front of us so that they’re not getting behind us and in a footrace with them.”

While the two speedy midfielders are important parts of the Seattle engine, it is Montero who is the focal point of the team. Earlier this season, Seattle jettisoned Freddie Ljungberg to Chicago, Montero stepped in and filled a leadership role and tied with Zakuani for the team’s lead in goals with 10 and led the club with 10 assists.

“Fredy Montero is a guy who, if you give him a lot of space he’s going to hurt you,” Dunivant said. “He’s always headhunting in the box. He’s a very good poacher in the box and he’s always stretching balls out and finds himself in good spots where he’ll get knockdowns, he’ll be in a good spot to deflect a shot in, those kinds of things. They’re not accidents on his part. He gets those kinds of goals.”

Although the Galaxy have offensive firepower of their own – Edson Buddle was second in the league in goals scored with a career-high 17 while Landon Donovan had 16 assists – it will be the team’s defensive play that guides the Galaxy to success.

“Usually around this time, the defense plays a massive role,” Dunivant said. “Teams that can keep other teams off the score sheet are going to have a good chance. We did a good job of that last year against Chivas and Houston, and if we can carry that in and keep a good defensive shape, it frustrates the other team.”

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

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