This is not a match where one needs to search for a narrative. Two of the best teams in MLS history are facing off on Sunday evening. Over a seven day stretch one will earn the Supporters' Shield and the other will have to solely focus on the MLS Cup. The LA Galaxy are the standard upon which Seattle Sounders FC are measured. They've done everything in MLS that Seattle's done, but better.
The players taking part are among the most gifted the league has seen. Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, Omar Gonzalez against Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins and Osvaldo Alonso would be enough, but there are so many more great players. Two amazing HGPs (Zardes, Yedlin) will face each other at times. There's Rogers, Evans, DeLaGarza, Pappa, Barrett, Gordon... it's a smorgasbord full of MLS talent. A fun thought experiment would be to take a Best XI from these two squads against the Best XI of the other 17 teams. That experiment will wait.
Josie from LAG Confidential answers Three Questions to get ready for the match. There will be more questions next week, and lineup guesses and maybe even that thought experiment.
SaH: Landon is having an amazing season. Any chance he plays next year?
LAGC: I'm going to make a partial list of people that would prefer Landon Donovan to play soccer next year. Bruce Arena, Robbie Keane, Gyasi Zardes, Robbie Rogers, me, Don Garber, Chris Klein, every Galaxy fan, Barack Obama, the mayor of Carson, Bono, the Spanish media, Grant Wahl probably
He's a complete list of people who would rather Landon Donovan not play soccer next year:
Landon Donovan, Jurgen Klinsmann
Now me, myself, of sound mind and body, would look at those lists and note that I appear to be on the wrong side of history. Jurgen Klinsmann is on your side and he doesn't know how to update the contacts in his phone. So that's not exactly a winning strategy.
Have you ever quit a job you really didn't like? I once worked in a coffee shop in San Francisco's Ferry Building, hundreds of people would come off boats and immediately get in line for coffee. Once I got in trouble for favoring a lawyer who worked upstairs, trying to bring some coffee shop humanity to an awful assembly line job.
The day I handed in my two week notice I felt like I was walking on air, and some homeless man called out to me while walking down the street saying 'you can't leave'. Coincidence? Maybe, but it stuck with me.
That freedom which comes from knowing there's an end in sight can allow for unburdened performance and that's what we're seeing out of Donovan. He's allowing himself to admit the MLS records he's breaking mean a lot to him. He's running while knowing there isn't some US tournament or some loan overseas or some other thing that will weigh him down.
He's absolutely still capable of these performances for several more years. Does he want to? Not really.
SaH: Robbie Rogers turned into a pretty darn good left back. What lead to the change and how does he play that position?
LAGC: It was mostly a change of necessity, and it all goes back to trading away Mike Magee. The 2013 season began with Magee in emergency forward duty as Donovan went on walkabout (see above re: Donovan not wanting to be a soccerer anymore). Gyasi Zardes did some work at wide mid, but it was quite apparent that he was meant to be a forward. So in the interest of getting the best eleven on the field, Arena trades away the older forward who's been stuck playing mid for too long anyway.
Part two is Todd Dunivant turning into a loose pile of disassociated body parts. Clearly this wasn't predicted as Arena could have given him the Sean Franklin treatment. He brought Dunivant back in, he falls apart, and now out of necessity we get Robbie Rogers trying things out as left back.
At first he played it like a mid subbing at fullback, focusing more on distribution. As the season has gone on, he's gotten much better at defense which has been great. Find the right balance took time, but he's settling into it. All because Arena believed in Zardes enough to clear a space in the Starting XI, and because he recognized the narrow attacking version of the Galaxy had become predictable.
SaH: Is there any reason to not expect this match to be a run & gun shootout?
LAGC: Pew pew! Pew pew!
I did LAvSEA on FIFA 15 last night and it ended up 4-3 in favor of Seattle. There was just so much space, and between Zardes, Martins, Keane, and Dempsey nobody could miss. It was a ton of fun.
[INT - Gilmore House - Day]
Rory, did you bring coffee?
No, just laundry. I had kind of a long day.
You know what's good for a long day?
[EXT - Stars Hallow - Day]
So what's got you down?
We have to do a project for my business class, choose a Major League Soccer team and find out how it's survived as a niche offering. I don't know anything about sports
Let alone obscure ones
I think it's the one that involves kicking
Well let's ask Luke. He knows about sports.
[INT - Luke's Diner -Day]
The only thing I know about soccer is we aren't very good at it
Did someone say soccer?
I'm a commenter at Sounder at Heart
Is that a good thing? A bad thing? Is that even a thing?
It's a soccer blog for the Seattle team. Lulu got me into it.
Do you think you could get my questions to someone who knows this stuff?
I can do my best. No promises though
RORY'S QUESTIONS FOR SOUNDER AT HEART
Hi Dave. This is Kirk, though I comment on Sounder at Heart as StarzHallowSounder. Our friend Rory had some questions about the Sounders, so I'm passing them along; minor editing in some places.
Rory: Someone at Yale told me Clint Dempsey was the best player the Sounders have. I looked at his stats, and he's not the leading goal scorer. So is he not the best player on the Sounders?
SaH: Soccer is kind of funny that way. Clint is a having a great season. It's probably the second best of his life. He's doing even more of the fancy stuff than usual and is a key component on the team. He may be the best player, but Obafemi Martins is the more valuable one. Oba is scoring more often, assisting others and plays some pretty good defense for a forward. He could be the MVP this year. Martins is fast enough that the team can send balls over and spring him free. He's also strong enough physically and on the ball that he can be used as a target man. You should be able to have a nice debate about "best" versus "value."
Rory: We were told the Alliance Council could teach us something about putting customers first. How has that worked to increase a sense of community?
SaH: Council has done some great things in helping the team better understand the fans. The fans now design the season ticket holder scarf and hold a contest to determine the best. Season ticket renewals were moved up so that the Playoff expenses and 2015 ticket costs didn't overlap so much, that's helped the team and fans. It also helped craft the ways that the team recognized the 40 years of Sounders tradition here in Seattle. That involved patches, on-field celebrations of past stars, digital media blow-outs and increased connections to a past that about half the fanbase didn't know existed.
Way back in '09 the Supporters Summit was managed by Council. Issues related to communication have been addressed through the open channels between fans and ownership that the Alliance Council created. It's a decent focus group that is fan selected rather than demographic. The goals are much greater than that, but for now it is an improvement on traditional focus groups. One thing is bigger than the rest.
The biggest thing that Council did doesn't relate to the First Team. It planted the seed for the fans owning part of the Sounders. While that was difficult, if not impossible, to do with MLS when Sounders 2 started to become a reality that seed started to grow. Through the Alliance Council the concept of a Community Trust took hold and now fans have a 20% share of the new USL PRO Sounders 2 via the Sounders Community Trust. The most die-hardy of the die-hards can say they own a part of the Sounders (they technically are only members of a thing that owns a minority share of an independent team that shares business resources with the MLS Sounders.
Mick: This is Kirk now. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to ask why the Sounders were so ineffective against Vancouver. Do you know how late I had to stay up to see them do a whole fat lot of nothing? Don't tell Rory I stole her third question.
SaH: Kirk, haven't seen you comment in a while. You could have just asked this there and Rory could get a bit more research for school. Two main things stymied Seattle's offense. Waston is a beast in the air and pretty good at intercepting ground passes. He's nearly as good as Omar Gonzalez or Chad Marshall at that whole centerback thing. Seattle tried to cross it through his space and that's a horrible idea. Secondly, the Sounders forwards like to drop back into space, but with Laba and Teibert sitting a bit deeper they were right where Oba and Clint succeed. That did mean that they couldn't enter the attack as much, but playing essentially a four-man defense against Martins and Dempsey kept Seattle from scoring. It's a quite defensive tactic. Vancouver needed to play that way to get the points, the Cascadia Cup and currently lead Portland in the Playoff hunt.