MLS Western Conference Finals Preview – LA Galaxy vs. Seattle Sounders

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The LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders have been bitter rivals since Seattle was introduced as the leagues newest expansion team in 2007. The Sounders immediately made it known they wanted to be the biggest and most successful soccer team in North America, a designation the Galaxy had adopted when they brought in Landon Donovan and David Beckham and became a legitimate topic of discussion in sports circles around America.

The rivalry will add another chapter November 23rd when the two sides meet in the Western Conference Finals 1st leg in Los Angeles. The Galaxy crushed Real Salt Lake in their Semi-Final series, winning 5-0 on aggregate. Seattle on the other hand squeezed by a tough FC Dallas team. The two teams each scored one goal with Seattle advancing on the new away goal rule.

The Galaxy will host the opening game at The StubHub Center, and will try to bury the Sounders before heading back to Seattle.

In three games against each other this season, each team has won one, lost one and drawn one.

Donovan, the league poster boy for more than a decade, will lead LA and will feature as the primary offensive option in attack. He is the MLS all time postseason scoring leader with 25 goals. Donovan has always played his best when the pressure is on, something the Sounders will have to game plan for in this series.

Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes have combined for 35 goals in 2014, more than half of the teams overall output of 69 goals. The trio of Donovan, Keane and Zardes have played very well together at times throughout the year, but they have also been disjointed and unfocused for stretches. Seattle will look to Osvaldo Alonso and Chad Marshall to break up any combination play between the three. Marshall, a two-time MLS Defender of the Year, has had an outstanding post-season to this point and will have to perform at the highest level to withstand the leagues best offense.

The Seattle Sounders will have to rely on its veterans to hold the team together in an extremely hostile environment. Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins will have to lead the team. The two have been seen getting into verbal arguments during matches, something they cannot afford to do on the road with their season on the line.

The possibility of this being Donovan’s final home game looms large over the Galaxy. The team has supported him through his farewell tour the last few months, but now is not time for emotional goodbyes. The team cannot play with any reservations about what Donovan’s future. Seattle would love to spoil the party. They have to play as a team if they want to avoid what happened to Salt Lake. Going down three or more goals in this game would be a complete disaster and one they would find very difficult to come back from.

LA and Seattle had a Supporters Shield deciding series to end the season and the Sounders pulled away at home after showing very well in LA. That series seems like a long time ago after watching the opening round performances delivered by both team.

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