Saturday, July 3, 2010

SOUNDERS FC: Double-header vs. L.A. could refocus Sounders

The glow of the energy-filled, shiny, new 2009 Sounders is beginning to wear off. While the team remains in contention for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and haven’t yet begun their CONCACAF odyssey, their hopes of a successful MLS campaign are all but over.

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Seattle has won a single game in their last five league matches and are about to face the hottest team in the MLS. The L.A. Galaxy have a nine point cushion over any MLS team and have the league’s best record (10-1-3, 33 points). The Rave Green currently occupy seventh place in the Western Conference and eleventh overall of the 16 MLS teams (4-7-3, 15 points).

By a freak coincidence of scheduling, not only will the Sounders play L.A. on Sunday in the Home Depot Center, three days later, the two teams will meet for the Open Cup in the amazingly intimate, for an MLS matchup, Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Washington.

After leaving the team for the World cup Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle will be back in uniform for the game against Seattle. Donovan has nine assists while Buddle is averaging a goal per game after nine matches. Besides missing David Beckham, L.A. isn’t doing too badly on the injury front either.

Seattle will have Nate Jaqua as an option at forward, probably for both games, and should have more players coming off injuries in the coming weeks. The addition of Blaise Nkufo could boost an underpowered offense, but the Swiss player will have played the equivalent of two MLS seasons by the time he reaches Seattle.

Between the two teams, Seattle is 1-1-1 all-time against the Galaxy, with L.A. handing Seattle their first ever 4-0 defeat at Qwest Field. The Sounders are 0-3-2 versus the Western Conference, and should consider ever conference match from now on a must-win. Seattle can do a few things with this rare mid-season two game series. Put everything on the line in the first game to gain some ground in the standings. They can focus on the second game and the Open Cup, which they are much closer to capturing.

Seattle leads the MLS is shots (165), corner kicks (90), and fouls suffered (171). While Fredy Montero has not lived up to his 2009 numbers, he still leads the team in goals, assists and shots. Steve Zakuani has also brought light for the Seattle offense. The key to a victory over the Galaxy will be to have other players contribute.

The Sounders often rely too heavily on their forwards to score goals. Players will anxiously try to launch a pass over the defense, only to be whistled offsides (48 times, second in the MLS). In order for Seattle’s forwards to create scoring opportunities, the passing in the back and mid fields needs to improve. Too many passes this season have been intercepted or hurried.

Conversely, the forwards have, on several occasions, taken a touch too many or took a shot out of desperation. If the defense can return to their 2009 form, and the midfield can stifle the Galaxy’s potent lineup, they can maintain possession long enough to crack off a few shots.

The match will be on 97.3 FM, 1210 AM and KONG 16. Additionally, ESPN has picked up it's option to air the game, which will be at 7:30 p.m.

Reach Galen Helmgren at