Who You’ll Watch
The Sounders return from a much-needed break and welcome the LA Galaxy to Seattle for the one and only time this year. This will also be the third and final matchup this season between the two clubs. The Sounders took four of a possible six points in Carson this season.
The Sounders are in the midst of an 11-game unbeaten streak — a club record — while the Galaxy won their first game in six attempts under Sigi Schmid last time out. Somehow, the Galaxy are in ninth place of the Western Conference (26 points in 26 games played; 1.00 ppg) and the Sounders are still in first (42 points in 27 games played; 1.56 ppg).
The last time these two faced each other, it was a bit of a disappointing game for the Sounders. Despite their best efforts, they weren’t able to find the back of the net against a very poor Galaxy team with a new coach in Schmid. In order to stay at the top, the Sounders will need all three points on Sunday night.
Last Five: L-L-L-L-W with four goals scored and 10 conceded
Top Scorer: Romain Alessandrini; nine goals
Top Assist Leader: Alessandrini, nine assists
Last Five: W-W-W-D-D with nine goals scored and three conceded
Top Scorer: Clint Dempsey; 11 goals
Top Assist Leader: Joevin Jones, 10 assists
Absences: Injury, international duty, suspension
LA: The Galaxy have four players on the injury report. Robbie Rogers (ankle injury, out for season), Sebastian Lletget (foot surgery 3/24, out 4-6 months), Baggio Husidic (fractured fibula 5/21, out 6-8 weeks) and Pele van Anholt (torn ACL/meniscus 8/27, out for season) are all listed as out. Both Romain Alessandrini and Jermaine Jones are one yellow card away from a suspension.
Seattle: For the Sounders, they have two players on the report. Brad Evans (lower back pain) is listed as out while Harry Shipp (left ankle sprain) is listed as questionable. Nouhou will miss this game due to the red card he received against the Portland Timbers on August 27. Joevin Jones is back with the team after he abruptly left early to be with Trinidad and Tobago.
What to Watch
Sigi Schmid has not been the tonic the Galaxy were hoping for, and they only have four points from six matches under the new boss. Their last match was Schmid’s first win and it’s where they finally created real chances and put their opponent under pressure.
When Romain Alessandrini converted the first half penalty, it broke a scoreless streak of over 350 minutes for LA and opened the floodgates on a three goal affair. Without Alessandrini in the match, LA has looked lost in the attack. The French winger dictates their pace and the runs of everyone else in the attacking band. Since joining the club, Jonathan dos Santos has yet to much of anything and wasn’t with the team (World Cup Qualifying) during the Colorado win. Bradford Jamieson filled in and effectively failed as a central attacking midfielder, being unsuccessful on the majority of his forward passes, and only had one key pass. The Galaxy offense bypassed Jamieson or went backwards, only to push forward via Alessandrini and Emmanuel Boateng on the wings.
The most dangerous LA will be is through the wings and whoever lines up opposite of Alessandrini will look to create with pace rather than touch. Boateng has started on the left for 22 of LA’s 26 matches, expect him to be there again. Boateng is not a gifted technical winger that will create chances from nothing but he will stretch a backline and, when paired with Gyasi Zardes, they can wreak havoc with their speed.
Defensively, the Galaxy are ... a mess. The backline was somewhere between a leaky faucet and a breached dam for most of the season before Jelle van Damme left for Belgium. Pele van Anholt being out, while not an above average defender this season, makes a bad situation worse. Dave Romney and Daniel Steres are the CB pairing for the remainder of the season, most likely. Romney and Steres, unlike van Damme, will play within themselves. They don’t make many rash challenges and aren’t going to go to ground often. The fullbacks, Ashley Cole and [insert RB here], have their own set of problems. Bradley Diallo or Nathan Smith will likely suit up as a right back. Smith plays it more like a wide center back and gets beat for pace and is a poor 1v1 defender. Diallo is not afraid to get forward in support of Alessandrini and has enough pace to recover.
What will it take for Seattle to grab three points?
Playing competently should be enough for three points. While that sounds like a ridiculous plan, because doing that against Vancouver and Portland didn’t grab all three points, LA isn’t one of those teams. Those Cascadia clubs are both playoff level sides, and LA is a top five draft pick kind of side this year. The dos Santos brothers are not accomplishing anything offensively, and they’ll likely click at one point, but they didn’t get to train with the team during the break, so it’s unlikely this is the game in which that comes to pass. Osvaldo Alonso and Cristian Roldan are likely the best central midfield pairing in MLS. Very little is able to get through them, which will neutralize the impact of the dos Santos brothers.
Shutdown the dos Santos Brothers - The brick wall tendencies of Roldan and Alonso will force the Galaxy to the wings, which is what they’d prefer. Boateng out left will face off against Kelvin Leerdam, a top 1v1 defender. Boateng is faster than Leerdam but because Leerdam has better positioning, it will lead to very few successful attacks via the winger. Chad Marshall and Roman Torres will be asked to screen Gyasi Zardes and Boateng from long balls on a handful of occasions and baring a slip, should have zero problems. Torres and Marshall are stronger and have the awareness to prevent long balls to corner from being dangerous.
Corner Alessandrini - Alessandrini then becomes the lone factor that Seattle doesn’t directly match up against. On Seattle’s left side, he can create damage. In any combination, Nouhou, Joevin Jones, Jordan Morris, and/or Victor Rodriguez are not the strongest group of defenders. All of them love to attack but are not 100% committed to defending. Without being able to cross or find late runners, Alessandrini gets left on an island where two defenders will be able to prevent good crosses or outlet passes.
Play Directly - Offensively, Seattle’s best bet likely is go right at them and play directly. If Morris starts up top with Victor Rodriguez wide, it creates a problem for Steres and Romney who can’t match Morris for speed. You’ll remember, as does Steres, Morris beating him on the counter last year in Los Angeles. If Will Bruin starts up top, the best bet is still to go direct but without the pace. It’ll lead to balls back into the middle for Nico Lodeiro or Clint Dempsey to make runs into the box. Jermaine Jones will likely be the man responsible for that area, with Joao Pedro, and both are likely to commit a foul in those spots. On the wings, LA is lacking defensive ability, with Diallo being a competent defender (Cole, Boateng, Zardes, and Alessandrini have little interest in defending). Schmetzer can play down the wings and overpower Galaxy’s defense but the final ball has been lacking for Seattle in previous matches and that’s a risk that the Sounders would be taking.
How to watch
Date/Time: Sunday, September 10 6:00 PM
Venue: CenturyLink Field
Television: FS1, Fox Deportes
Radio: The End 107.7 FM (English), El Rey 1360 AM (Spanish)