The Seattle Sounders return to action after three weeks off and will effectively need to hit the ground running. Awaiting them is the somewhat surprisingly competent LA Galaxy, who sit third in the Western Conference on 15 points through seven games.
The only two blemishes on the Galaxy’s record both came while playing in the Pacific Northwest. They are 4-0-0 at Dignity Health Sports Park, where Saturday’s game will be played.
Here’s what we’re hoping to see:
Limit early mistakes
After not playing a competitive match for three weeks, some rust is to be expected. But as Cristian Roldan noted during Thursday’s press availability “We can’t have unforced errors that lead to goals.” The key, most likely, will be to weather some early troubles and then settle into the game. That’s been a bit of a calling card during the entire Brian Schmetzer era, but has been especially true this year as the Sounders have outscored opponents 13-2 from the 16th minute on and 10-2 in the second half.
Home away from home
Funny as it may seem given how badly they struggled against the Galaxy on the road during the Sigi Schmid era, Dignity Health Sports Park has witnessed quite a bit of Sounders success under Brian Schmetzer. In their seven trips there under Schmetzer, the Sounders have gone 3-1-3 (12 points). That broadly mimics their relative dominance of the Galaxy during the same time frame, as the Sounders hold an overall 6-1-5 advantage in that time. Mostly, though, that’s come against bad Galaxy teams, which this year’s team seems not to be.
Oba World Cup 2: Rui’s Revenge
Back in 2014 when Obafemi Martins was left off the Nigeria World Cup team, he stated that he’d be playing his own World Cup with the Sounders. He proceeded to score 11 goals and log 9 assists in all competitions after play resumed from a brief World Cup break, finishing second in MVP voting.
Raúl Ruidíaz was recently dealt a similar snub when he was left off Peru’s Copa America squad. Ruidíaz is already second in the MLS Golden Boot race with six goals (trailing only the Galaxy’s Javier Hernandez), but it sure would be fun to see him turn it up a notch and remind Peru what they’re missing.
As good as the Sounders have been, if there’s one area for concern it’s that no one has truly stepped up as a reliable secondary scorer. Cristian Roldan and Will Bruin have played well overall, but their combined production of 1 goal and 3 assists is a bit below what you’d expect out of a starting forward and nominal No. 10. If the Sounders are going to maintain this pace, they’re going to need a bit more production out of those two. If they don’t produce, we could start to see a lot more of Fredy Montero.
Pile up points
The Sounders will never be more rested than they are right now. This period of rest is immediately followed by one of their busiest stretches, in which they’ll play five games in 18 days after which they’ll potentially lose some players to the Gold Cup. While it’s inevitable that they’re pace will need to drop off at some point, now’s the time to keep piling up as many points as possible. If they can at least get a tie, they’ll be just the second team since 2015 to open with nine straight unbeaten (joining 2017 FC Dallas, who started 5-0-4).