TUKWILA, Wash. — Having escaped Portland with three massive road points and the Cascadia Cup, the Seattle Sounders returned to training this week with eyes on a familiar — and troublesome — foe in the LA Galaxy.
With the benefit of a full week of training ahead of them, the Sounders look to continue to exorcise some recent ghosts. In addition to claiming the first trophy of the season, the Sounders were able to exact payback for a home loss against Portland earlier in the month. “The bus ride back was pretty fun,” coach Brian Schmetzer said. “The guys are feeling a bit of mental relief and satisfaction in beating your arch rival.”
The Sounders will hope to remove the bad taste from their last meeting with the Galaxy, as the Sounders seemed to reach the nadir of a recent funk that saw them unable to grab three against a 10-man side, a game which they were perhaps lucky to even get a result.
“Missed opportunity,” Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei said of the last game against the Galaxy. “A draw with an own-goal is a bit fortunate on our end.”
The focus after practice was on the Galaxy’s highest-profile player in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the larger-than-life forward who has been on a recent tear. The Swedish superstar has back-to-back braces, which includes two goals against the Sounders that both came while a man down. He followed that up with a two-goal performance in the El Trafico rivalry game against LAFC Sunday night.
“Everything runs through Zlatan,” Frei said. “It’s more a matter of maybe cutting off the service to him rather than defending him well. You can defend him well eight out of 10 times, and the other two times he’ll punish you.”
Frei’s point was especially relevant in looking at the last game, where the Galaxy’s strategy was seemingly to get the ball to Zlatan in the box and see what he could do. He was able to beat Kim Kee-hee to a cross and power home a header for the tying goal, and then provide the Galaxy with a lead when he was brought down in the box for a penalty which he converted. The Sounders struggled to contain him for most of the game, which to be fair is not something many MLS sides have been able to do with consistency. Ibrahimovic now has 44 goals in 49 MLS appearances.
“The service to him doesn’t even have to be that good,” Frei said “He’s gonna win most balls so can we just limit that service. Can we really pressure that service and make them kick it out of bounds or too far away from goal.”
Schmetzer said he was pleased with the return of Brad Smith, and the introduction of newest signing Emanuel Cecchini, who had a decent opportunity to score in his first appearance with the team. “If he would have score that goal to put that game away, that would have been great,” Schmetzer said. “To score on your debut is always good, but the kid’s not here to bang twenty goals, he’s here to create twenty goals.”
Jordan Morris wasn’t present at practice, though he was inside doing his own separate work after coming off at the 60-minute mark at Portland while Victor Rodriguez trained on the side at practice. Updates are should be available Thursday, as the Sounders are off on Wednesday. ... The MLS roster freeze is Friday. While it’s possible that some other moves are made to the Sounders roster, a source indicated that’s unlikely.