Major League Soccer returns Tuesday evening, with Seattle Sounders hosting L.A. Galaxy in MLS First Kick. The Sounders are hosting First Kick for the third year running, beating the New York Red Bulls 3-0 in their inaugural season and defeating the Philadelphia Union 2-0 last year in Philly's first match. Will this season follow the trend, with Seattle accomplishing a 1-0 win over the Galaxy?
The Sounders might have revenge on their minds. Los Angeles fans are still mocking Seattle for having issued a refund after last year's 4-0 loss at Qwest Field. The Sounders may have knocked out the Galaxy in a B-sides meeting in the Open Cup, but that certainly doesn't make up for being kicked out of the playoffs in the first round last season. For Seattle to start their season on the right note, a win over L.A. is critical.
The home side received a boost of good news today, with Los Angeles announcing that Juan Pablo Angel and Omar Cummings will not be starting. However, the Sounders are without two players that they had planned to include in their regular starting XI. Steve Zakuani (hip injury) and Brad Evans (hamstring strain). Fortunately, the other injuries in the squad are primarily at the forward position, so although Seattle's injuries are not insignificant, the depth in the squad will likely mean that those filling in at midfield will not cause a tremendous amount of stress for the team.
According to the with-it folks at Sounder at Heart, it's likely that Sounder newbies Lamar Neagle and Erik Friberg will fill in for Zakuani and Evans. Should he start, Neagle will take the place of Alvaro Fernandez on the right, but never fear, Seattle fans waiting for Fernandez to get a start in a league game: El Flaco can shift to the left wing. Friberg, of course, plays in the middle, along with Osvaldo Alonso. The rest of the lineup is one that will likely be considered the standard starting XI. James Riley, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Jeff Parke and Leo Gonzalez start in front of Kasey Keller in goal. Fredy Montero and Blaise Nkufo lead the attack.
As for the Galaxy, I won't pretend to know what exactly they'll do in response to missing Angel and Cummings. But again, Sounder at Heart steps in to give their best idea:
That [the exclusion of JPA and Cummings] caused us to make some last-minute changes, namely moving Landon Donovan to forward, bringing in Michael Stephens to LM, moving AJ De La Garza to CB and sliding Todd Dunivant into the LB position.
The Sounders themselves already predicted Dunivant would start at left back, with Leonardo and De La Garza in the center and Sean Franklin on the right. Donovan Ricketts will likely not get the start, either, with Josh Saunders taking his place in goal. David Beckham, Juninho, Chris Birchall and Michael Stephens are in the midfield, with Donovan and Chad Barrett up front.
Check back throughout the day for updates on lineups, injuries, and more.