Thursday, May 6, 2010

SOUNDERS FC: Shorthanded Seattle faces hottest team in MLS

The Sounders FC might decide the fate of their season when they face the L.A. Galaxy at Qwest Field on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. A win over the best team in the league could boost Seattle, fueling them through the heart of the season. A loss might push the sophomore team deeper into their current slump, hurting the opportunity of a second post-season birth.

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The Sounders (2-2-3, 9 points) have improved their cohesion with each match, insists Freddie Ljungberg, they have just come up short in the last few matches. Coach Sigi Schmid has echoed his designated player’s positive review. Even casual fans watching their first game of the season noticed how sharp the boys in Rave Green were looking against Columbus, but the wins have not been coming.

Saturday would be a perfect time for Seattle to peak, despite still being shorthanded. Several players have been nursing injuries, notably defender Tyrone Marshall, and forwards Nate Jaqua and Mike Fucito. Jaqua, rehabilitating after surgery to his abdomen, is key if the Sounders plan to convert scoring opportunities. Seattle recorded a surprisingly high number of corner kicks in the last two matches and having a 6’4” target in the goal box would be a welcome asset to a team having trouble finding the net.

The same cannot be said for L.A. (6-0-1, 19 points) who are playing better each week. Their leading scorer, Edson Buddle, has netted nine times in the last seven games. He alone has scored more goals this season than the entire Sounders roster combined.
If you are not already worried about their front line, the other end of L.A.'s formation is equally daunting.

By the numbers, Donovan Ricketts has been the stingiest keeper in the league thus far (0.29 GAA), allowing just two goals in seven games. Speaking of stingy, L.A.’s best player currently, Landon Donovan (sorry Beckham) has plenty of assists (6), but has yet to find his scoring touch. When he does, look out, because the Galaxy will be practically impossible to beat.

The Sounders cannot sustain high spirits on draws and losses for long, and at some point, their accumulated record will hamper the growth of the team. A well-timed victory against L.A. would go a long way towards building confidence. It could be the turning point of the season. Columbus, despite a slow start in 2009, turned it on late in the season, earning the Supporters Shield for the second consecutive year and nabbing a playoff spot to boot. If Seattle wants a successful second season, now would be a great time to start.

Just under 80 percent of the season remains. With hard work and a whole lot of luck, the Sounders still have an opportunity to win the Western Conference and gain the top seed in the playoffs. History looks to be with Seattle in the series versus L.A. In their first two meetings, the Sounders outscored the Galaxy three goals to one earning a win and a draw. The way L.A. is scoring, Seattle will need to play perfect football to earn a victory.

Reach Galen Helmgren at