LA Galaxy (No. 1 seed in the Western Conference) vs. Seattle Sounders (No. 4 seed in West) at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
The Galaxy have a 2-1-1 all-time record against the Sounders, and hold a 1-0 aggregate-goal lead in the series.
9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT, ESPN, ESPN Deportes
So much for momentum. Heading into this Western Conference Semifinal Series, the Seattle Sounders had built up some steam with a 10-2-3 record in the second half of the season. The Galaxy, meanwhile, saw a massive lead in the table all but vanish and clinched the Supporters' Shield on the final day of the regular season.
But the Galaxy came out in the first leg and put in the kind of performance they became known for in the first half of the season, shutting down Seattle's potent attack and riding an Edson Buddle goal to victory. The Galaxy need just a draw to close out the series and take a step towards returning to the MLS Cup final.
What was that about a shaky defense? True, the Galaxy had just two shutouts in their last 16 regular-season games – and after starting with 10 shutouts in the first 14, the dropoff seemed spectacular. But LA turned in a magnificent performance defensively against the Sounders.
What made it all the more remarkable was the absence of Todd Dunivant on the left and A.J. DeLaGarza's start in central defense. Blaise Nkufo and Fredy Montero were unable to do much against the Galaxy, but even when they could, Donovan Ricketts was at his best and tallied eight saves.
The Galaxy have played well with a lead all season. Including the first leg, they're 17-1-0 this season when scoring first. Heading into the second leg with a lead should help Los Angeles play with confidence from the start and should only make it more difficult for Seattle to penetrate the Galaxy's defense.
With 10 wins down the stretch and a US Open Cup victory to boot, hopes were high in Seattle. All that vanished though with a swing of Edson Buddle's right foot. The Galaxy's World Cup veteran scored on a wicked half-volley from the right side of the field and Seattle were unable to match the goal.
If the Sounders hope to have a chance in the series, they must score early. The Galaxy have had a problem dealing with opponents when giving up the first goal of the game. This match may be different in that an early Seattle goal would only level the series, but it could have a psychological effect on LA.
The Galaxy did not appear vulnerable much in the second half, but in the first half, some long-range shots and set pieces tested Ricketts. The adjustments Seattle coach Sigi Schmid makes could determine the outcome of the series.
Heroes and Villains
Fredy Montero vs. Omar Gonzalez: If the Sounders are to get it going, Montero must produce. Despite the Sounders' late-season success, the Colombian has been ice-cold, picking up just one assist in his last seven regular-season games.
Montero grew increasingly frustrated as the first leg wore on, in large part because of Gonzalez’s endless clearances. The second-year center back was well-positioned throughout the match led the defensive charge against Seattle. Montero must use his pace and elusiveness to his advantage if Seattle hope to avoid a conference semifinal exit for the second straight year.
Stat that makes you go "Hmm..."
In six all-time playoff games at The Home Depot Center, the Galaxy are 5-0-1 and have outscored their opponents 12-3.
Keys to the Game
- Keep tight mark on Seattle's speedy midfielders. Steve Zakuani and Sanna Nyassi are less dangerous when they don't have much space to maneuver.
- Capitalize on space left behind by a pushing Sounders side by being quick on counter.
- Omar Gonzalez is a rock but his former college teammate A.J. DeLaGarza is still relatively inexperienced. It's Seattle's best chance of penetrating through central defense.
- Get early goal to swing series momentum back towards Emerald City.
QUESTIONABLE: DF Todd Dunivant (R hamstring strain); DF Leonardo (L knee pain); MF Michael Stephens (L knee pain)
OUT: MF Brad Evans (R patellar tendon); DF Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (L ACL); FW Pat Noonan (adductor strain); MF Peter Vagenas (R quadriceps strain); QUESTIONABLE: DF Jeff Parke (L ankle sprain)
The Galaxy are ahead 1-0 on aggregate goals in the series and 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
With a win or tie on Sunday, they will host the Western Conference Championship at The Home Depot Center on Sunday, November 14 at 6 p.m. BUY TICKETS
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