SEATTLE - MARCH 15: Landon Donovan #10 of the Los Angeles Galaxy battles Jeff Parke #31 of the Seattle Sounders FC at Qwest Field on March 15, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. The Galaxy defeated the Sounders 1-0. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Sporting an all-time MLS regular season record of 1-4-2 and winless against the Galaxy in league play since 2009, the Sounders will be desperate to turn their fortunes around in this big early-season Western Conference clash
To say that the Seattle Sounders have had some difficulty with the LA Galaxy would be a just a bit of an understatement. Seattle has never beaten the Galaxy at home in MLS play, and their one win at the Home Depot Center came in 2009. Seattle's only other competitive wins against the Galaxy have come in the US Open Cup, and though those victories should not be discounted, the all-competitions record against LA is still quite ugly at 3-6-2. Despite the Sounders' many successes since their inception as an MLS team, the sense still remains that the Galaxy reside in a tier just above. For that to change in any meaningful way, the Sounders will need to start beating them with some regularity; with the Galaxy off to a shaky start and looking vulnerable, tonight's game is as good a chance as any.
LA will be without three of the players so key to their pre-season status as best in the league; center back Omar Gonzalez suffered a torn ACL in January while on loan to Bundesliga club FC Nuremburg, while David Beckham and Robbie Keane did not travel to Seattle (most likely due to their distaste for playing on artificial turf). The Gonzalez injury is clearly the bigger story, as LA has been unable to show anything approaching mediocrity in defense, let alone the outright domination that was their hallmark last season; through 34 games in 2011, the Galaxy allowed 28 goals. In 7 games so far this season, that number is 11. In addition to Gonzalez, the loss of Leonardo has forced LA to field 4th and 5th choice defenders on numerous occasions so far this season, and the one identifiable weakness the Galaxy had coming into the year was the quality of their depth.
But while defense is the far bigger issue for LA in the long-term, how the attack functions without Beckham and Keane will be a concern for Bruce Arena tonight. The Galaxy still sport a fair bit of firepower with Landon Donovan, Edson Buddle and Juninho all fit and expected to play, but LA have been forced to rely almost solely on their ability to score goals this season thanks to their defensive struggles. Without two of their biggest attacking threats, an explosive attack looks on paper to be merely a very good one. Coupled with their issues at the back (likely exacerbated by the loss of goalkeeper Josh Saunders, who has enrolled in a substance abuse program) this is a far less impressive Galaxy team than the one that's caused Seattle so many problems these past few years.
That's not to say this will be a cakewalk for the Sounders; they're dealing with injury troubles of their own, with winger Alvaro Fernandez doubtful for this evening and Mauro Rosales battling a knock picked up in Seattle's win over the Chicago Fire on Saturday. With a very crowded schedule looming in May, Sigi Schmid will also be forced to make some very tough decisions about who plays which games and for how long; no matter what, this won't be a truly full-strength Sounders team on the pitch tonight either. Still, that's been the case all season, but if not for a "questionable" penalty awarded to San Jose the Sounders would be unbeaten. Where LA has opted to invest in the top end of their roster (and given their success these past few years it's difficult to question that approach) Seattle has emphasized depth. That decision may well pay big dividends over the next three weeks, and there isn't any understating how important a win in this game-from both a practical and emotional standpoint-would be for Seattle.