For the Seattle Sounders, the stadium currently known as the StubHub Center hasn’t always been the easiest place to play. Its occupants, the LA Galaxy, are often one of the best teams in MLS and they make their home a fortress. Fortunately for the Sounders, they not only head to LA as the reigning MLS Cup champs, but their most recent meeting in Southern California was a 4-2 victory last September.
Both teams have less-than-ideal starts to the 2017 campaign, as the Galaxy and Sounders currently occupy 8th and 9th in the Western Conference, respectively. Midfielder Cristian Roldan stressed that “we can’t take them lightly, even though they haven’t had the best start.” He doesn’t expect the Galaxy to expect an easy match either, because they’ll know as well as the Sounders that the standings don’t necessarily tell the whole story. “We’ve been in every game and the results could have gone either way.”
One thing that Roldan is a bit concerned about with the Galaxy, however, is winger Romain Alessandrini, who has been one of the best players in MLS so far this season. “He scores goals...he’s very consistent in that way, he’s a very good player and we have to be aware of him cutting in on his left and keep him out on his right.” Alessandrini has four goals and two assists so far this season from the right wing, and his aforementioned tendency to cut inside could mean that Roldan and Osvaldo Alonso are the first line of defense against his deadly finishing ability.
Echoing much of what goalkeeper Stefan Frei said earlier this week, defender Gustav Svensson said the Sounders need to do a handful of things to avoid another away loss like last weekend’s in Vancouver. He said the balance between offense and defense needs to be managed a little better against LA, because their style often leaves holes in the back for opponents to capitalize on. “The thing with us is that we attack a lot, with a lot of players, so we sacrifice our defense sometimes.”
Not that being an attacking team is a bad thing, but the lack of goals in games like the one in Vancouver meant that the team was constantly pushing for a goal. “We play a very good attacking game,” Svensson said, “so sometimes you have to sacrifice your defense a little bit to create as many chances as possible.”
But the team has also been working on some of the areas on defense that the Whitecaps capitalized on last weekend. Defending crosses was the main issue that the team focused on, and Svensson said the goal is “to try and get closer to the guy who is making the crosses to get them to avoid making crosses in the first place.” He also mentioned the team was working on man marking, especially when the ball is being crossed into the box. According to Svensson, the coaching staff has also made it clear to the team that even though the defensive impetus is foremost on the back four, “it’s a team effort, so we have to try and help each other as much as possible.”
Both Roldan and Svensson believe their team can improve their road form, and that playing their best soccer from the first whistle is key to bringing home three points from LA. Roldan doesn’t want his team to wait until they’re down a goal (or two), and “should come out and be effective from the beginning.” Svensson was a little more prescriptive with what he wants his team to do in LA. “We’ll try to stay close, try to especially on the sides, to not let them have speed and go 1v1.”