There's no two ways around it: Ever since the Seattle Sounders entered MLS in 2009, the most successful team has been the LA Galaxy. They've won the MLS Cup twice, been to another final and twice claimed the Supporters' Shield. No other team can match that run of success, and if they win the Supporters' Shield on Saturday, they'll be the first team to win five in MLS history.
There's no one team that can unequivocally claim to be the second best team over that time, but the Sounders have a pretty good claim. Their four U.S. Open Cups and five Open Cup finals are unmatched and their 327 points claimed in the regular season is bested only by the Galaxy's 342.
For all those achievements, though, the Sounders don't have much to show for it terms of MLS silverware. Based solely on that metric, the Columbus Crew (2009 Supporters' Shield), Real Salt Lake (2009 MLS Cup), Colorado Rapids (2010 MLS Cup), San Jose Earthquakes (2012 Shield), New York Red Bulls (2013 Shield) and Sporting Kansas City (2013 MLS Cup) all have a leg up.
The Sounders can obviously change all that by simply claiming a point on Saturday. But that also underscores the importance of this match and lends some credence to a comment Robbie Keane made recently.
"It's a tough place to go, but there's no reason we can't go there and win," Keane told MLSsoccer.com. "No pressure on us. It's theirs to lose ... it's theirs to throw away. They're playing in front of 60,000, 70,000 people. The pressure is on them, not us."
Saying the pressure is on the other team is a pretty classic psychological ploy. We've all seen it countless times. Usually, it's meaningless. But, usually, it implies that both teams need something equally, it's just that one of them might be able to obtain it more easily.
I'm not sure that's the case here. The Galaxy surely want the Shield. It's a cool prize. It further cements their dynasty. It sends Landon Donovan out with wonderful parting gift. But let's not fool ourselves: Winning the Shield is not of equal importance to the Sounders and Galaxy. The Galaxy could get blown out 4-0 on Saturday, and still feel like their main goal -- the franchise's fifth MLS Cup -- is still well within reach.
No one has said this from the Sounders, but I suspect their attitude is very different. Winning the Shield would be a very real and important accomplishment. It would be their first MLS silverware, a very real accomplishment for a season that has seen its share of ups and downs. It would also give them a domestic double, just the second team to ever pair the Open Cup and Shield. But just as importantly would be the psychological effect. Not only would it drive a stake through the heart of the tired "can't win big games" narrative, but it would show once and for all that the Sounders can stand toe-to-toe with the Galaxy when something big is on the line.
So, maybe the "pressure is on" the Sounders. That pressure doesn't have to be a bad thing, though. As Sigi Schmid has often pointed out, it's tough to match the intensity of a desperate team and while the Sounders might not be desperate, they are more likely to treat this game like a cup final.
Nothing great, after all, can be achieved without pressure. The Sounders should seek it out. They should embrace it. They should own it.