Sigi Schmid has made it clear that he wants the Seattle Sounders to capture those three available points so they have a chance at hosting the MLS Cup and getting into the CONCACAF Champions League through their standing on the table. Both coaches have a bit of a concern as to injuries amongst their players, so the lineups may not be Ideal XIs, but they will be strong. These are two good teams. For Schmid the approach is the same he's had most of the season, defense first.
"[We] just want to continue to do what we’re doing," he said after practice Friday. "Concentrate on our possession when we have the ball, concentrate on our defending as a group, continue to defend well. I know we gave up a goal against Dallas, but we’re only giving up I think one goal in our last four or five games. We have to continue to work on that—that we have a good reaction in transition offensively and defensively."
The LA Galaxy and Bruce Arena do have more injury concerns with David Beckham and Landon Donovan both capable of playing, but there is a question of time. Giving Sounder at Heart readers insight into the situation down in SoCal is Josie from LAGConfidential.
SaH: What will the attitude be towards Sunday's match? Fine tune to face Vancouver or are they prepping to earn points against Seattle?
LAGC: I believe going into Sunday's match will be a mixture of fitness, fine tuning, and caution. Landon Donovan is expected to play, and David Beckham has been practicing with the team all week as well. Look for them to come in trying to get match fit for Vancouver. The rest of the starters will be out there playing the part of soccer players in an elaborate play called Nobody Get Hurt Or We're All Doomed.
If the Galaxy had gotten a Tuesday play date for the fixture in El Salvador (which was fantastic by the way) then I would have expected more reserves to take this pitch on Sunday. Unfortunately, one day of practice after international travel is hardly enough to get ready for an MLS team still fighting for positioning and I'm sure Real Salt Lake would cry foul had the Galaxy just sent out stick figures to face Seattle.
Still, don't mistake starters for going for three points. Y'all can have em. Use em to decorate the halls.
SaH: A couple players are coming back from injuries any moment. Who rests for the playoffs and who goes Sunday?
LAGC: A.J. is still a no go, so obviously he rests. Marcelo Sarvas played in El Salvador so he won't see the pitch. I think it's always a mistake to rest players for the playoffs, so many players at this point are playing through all manners of knocks and dings and it's the repetition of the season that keeps 'em going. It's just as risky to play men on almost two weeks rest as it is to have men go on short rest. Now, if the Galaxy were playing the Halloween tilt that the Eastern half is doing, rest away. You'd be surprised how much that extra day means. At least, that's what Bruce Arena tells me.
SaH: How awesome is Omar Gonzalez?
LAGC: Omar Gonzalez is so amazing that folk are going to be surprised that he's not going to be Defender of the Year. He just didn't get enough minutes this year, but coming back from injury a month ahead of schedule is nothing to take lightly. He worked extremely hard to get back, got his practice reps in actual MLS games, and now has the Galaxy defense back to where it was last year. At least against teams not named San Jose.
Don't overlook A.J. DeLaGarza. Gonzalez is all height and intelligence but DeLaGarza is probably the best athlete on the Galaxy back line. In this month that he's been gone, LA has missed his pace and it's allowed defenders to get in behind the back line (see: Salt Lake, Real). The two of them together are probably the best defensive pair in all of MLS, their experience together in college paying off in a sort of ESP now here in MLS.
So it'll be a sad day should Gonzalez chose to test the waters of Europe, but it won't be a sad day for his pocketbook so you can't blame the lad.
* * *
LAGC: Seattle got through Champions League much the way the Galaxy did, with reserves playing a huge role. They also play a big role in the US Open Cup runs. Who among them do you expect to start seeing on the senior team?
SaH: Due to injuries along the backline there is basically a seven man rotation there and has been throughout the season. Hurtado, Scott and Burch have all started often enough that their playing in the CCL was not an example of depth, but more about keeping them fresh. It was in the attacking positions where you got a real look at the future of the Sounders. Mario Martinez has a skil set that is a fusion of Rosales/Montero, at only 23 his future is bright. You could see him as a frequently used sub in the MLS Cup Playoffs. Steve Zakuani is back. His goal against Marathon was a vintage Zakuani move. He does not fit as a starter these days, but he can still change games. David Estrada and Sammy Ochoa are two non-league all stars. They can and do contribute in MLS play, but they are the types of players that Sigi has used to so much success in the Open Cup and Champions League.
LAGC: The Sounders still have something to play for on Sunday. Is home field advantage in the quarterfinal tie important enough that the Sounders will continue to push for three points if the match is drawn late?
SaH: If Seattle gets three points they have a decent chance at hosting the MLS Cup Final and backing into the next Champions League cycle. Both of those are worthy goals. Yes, the Western Conference standings are unlikely to mean much, but the bigger picture means that you should expect Sigi to push for goals. Seattle hosted the Cup Final in 2009, the chance to do that again, but with the home side has an appeal that can not be overstated.
LAGC: Fredy Montero and Eddie Johnson have quietly become an offensive duo to rival Donovan and Keane or Wondo and Leinhart, at least as far as production is concerned. Do they work together as well as the other duos?
SaH: The pairing they are most like is Saborio/Espindola. It's a big/small thing with EJ typically sticking inside the 18 and awaiting the cross. His heading is better than anyone else in the league and at this point he's often double-teamed when close. That leaves Montero with space to roam about 20-25 yards away from goal drifting from side to side. Fredy still has that dangerous distance shot, can use his slippery little passes and pounces on rebounds quite well. What you won't often see are patterns of play that involve the two of them passing to each other. They do get some secondary assists on goals by the other, but the play seems to run through a third player to maximize space available.
Sigi, you have the initiative. What do you do?