German Alegria/LA Galaxy

LA Galaxy remain focused ahead of pivotal clash with Seattle Sounders FC

CARSON, Calif. – Is Saturday’s much-anticipated showdown between the LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders at StubHub Center (7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network, 1330 AM, LIVE CHAT) the game of the year? Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena didn’t necessarily think so.

“I think the MLS Cup final will be the game of the year,” he said.

How about one of the biggest games of the regular season? Arena was more amenable to that suggestion.

“It’s a big game,” he said. “An important game for both teams, I would think.”

Saturday’s meeting between the Western Conference powers unquestionably will have a decided impact on the playoff picture. Seattle (15-8-4) is first in the West with 49 points, followed by Real Salt Lake (14-9-6, 48 points) and Colorado (12-8-9, 45 points), with the Galaxy (13-10-5, 44 points) alone in fourth place, one point ahead of Portland (10-5-13, 43 points), who currently hold the fifth and final postseason berth ahead of FC Dallas, San Jose and Vancouver.

And if the two-time defending MLS Cup champion Galaxy have any designs on a third Supporters’ Shield in the last four years, a win Saturday would be a big step toward that goal.

Defender Omar Gonzalez, however, said that shouldn’t be the main focus this weekend.

“It would be great if we could get it again, but that isn’t what should be on our minds,” he said. “Just putting a good team out there, putting in a good effort and making sure we play the right way so we can get three points.

“We need these three points not just for the Supporters’ Shield but to clinch a playoff (berth). It’s so tight right now a loss would be pretty detrimental to us. Portland, Dallas, Colorado, they’re all right there.”

The Galaxy, coming off a 1-0 victory over El Salvador’s Isidro Metapan in the CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday night, face a Sounders side that has been on a roll of late. Since the addition of Designated Player Clint Dempsey early last month, the Sounders have gone 7-1-0 and have not lost a regular-season game since a 3-1 setback to the Houston Dynamo on Aug. 17. Dempsey, the record holder for most goals scored by an American in the English Premier League (57), has yet to score or get an assist, but the Sounders are 4-1-0 in the five matches he has played in.

“A good team, not much different from what we’ve seen in the past,” Arena said. “I think Clint will help as he gets settled in more and he’s in the league a little longer.

“He’s still getting adjusted to the league; probably the (artificial) surface is a little bit of a challenge for him right now.”

Saturday’s game affords the Sounders a chance to exact a little payback for the last meetings between the teams. The Galaxy won that game at home 4-0 with Robbie Keane scoring a first half hat trick and Sean Franklin adding a goal for the home side in one of the team’s finest performance of the season.

Keane understandably would happy with a similar effort, or one close to it, on Saturday.

“A performance like that, to get that score, it would be great if it did happen,” he said. “But they don’t come around very often. We play half as well as we did against them, we’ve got every chance to win the game.

“Don’t forget, we’re still the best team in this league. Even though it’s not showing.”