The Seattle Sounders head into the first round of the MLS playoffs for the second time in two years, welcoming the Los Angeles Galaxy to Qwest Field for a Halloween match. The last time the Galaxy came to Qwest, they beat the Sounders 4-0 in a match that no Seattle supporter wants to dwell on. Instead, it's time for the team to obliterate that loss from everyone's minds by taking a solid win into next weeks' leg in L.A.
The team that scores the greatest number of goals over both legs of the semi-final will advance to the single-elimination Western Conference game. Should the number of goals be even after both games, the team will play an additional thirty minutes in Los Angeles, and if the score remains tied, the winner will be decided through a penalty shootout. To avoid giving the Galaxy too much of a home field advantage, Seattle will be looking to score as many as possible at Qwest.
To put their best foot forward, Seattle will almost certainly field the lineup they've started for the past five out of six league matches, the lineup that has not only never lost a match, but is perfect-they have won all seven matches that they've started together. Talk about teamwork. Exempting a freak accident, this is the lineup that Sigi Schmid will send out to face the Galaxy:
Kasey Keller-Leo Gonzalez, Jeff Parke, Patrick Ianni, James Riley-Steve Zakuani, Nathan Sturgis, Osvaldo Alonso, Sanna Nyassi-Fredy Montero, Blaise Nkufo
Los Angeles, of course, will want to do everything in their power to stop a Sounders side that looks nothing like the team it beat twice this year. The team that the Galaxy beat 7-1 over the course of the season had Tyrone Marshall in the back, Pete Vagenas and Freddie Ljungberg in the middle, and Pat Noonan on top. L.A. hasn't yet had to cope with the central defense of Patrick Ianni and Jeff Parke. They haven't dealt with a fit Osvaldo Alonso controlling the midfield, and they certainly haven't experienced an attack lead by Blaise Nkufo and Fredy Montero. Are they ready?
Dave Clark at Sounder at Heart describes the in-play matchups that will likely feature in tomorrow's game:
DeLaGarza is not very big, but has the speed to match up well with Fredy Montero, while Omar Gonzalez seems a good matchup for Blaise Nkufo. Sean Franklin likes to get forward, but will probably have to be careful with Steve Zakuani lining up opposite him, while Todd Dunivant is more of a stay-at-home left back.
The likely starting XI from the L.A. Galaxy will look like this:
Donovan Ricketts-Todd Dunivant, AJ DeLaGarza, Omar Gonzalez, Sean Franklin-Dema Kovalenko-Michael Stephens, Juninho, David Beckham-Landon Donovan, Edson Buddle
The Galaxy, who lost to Real Salt Lake in last year's MLS Cup Final, are looking to avenge their playoff demons, but Seattle will be unwilling to concede even a tiny bit of ground in front of the home crowd. The Sounders could make Halloween a very scary night for Los Angeles.