Preview: Seattle hope to use LA home tie as measuring stick

SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC vs LA GALAXY
CENTURYLINK FIELD, Seattle, Wash. May 2, 2012

(WEEK 9, MLS Game #75)
10 p.m. ET (MLS Live; KONG/KOMO; KDOC/KWHY)

A high-profile meeting of two Western Conference powers in recent years is ahead at CenturyLink Field when Seattle Sounders FC play host to the LA Galaxy. Sounders FC have won two games in a row, their last triumph a 2-1 defeat of the Chicago Fire on the road. The Galaxy have rebounded from early troubles with a three-game unbeaten run, coming back for a 1-1 draw with FC Dallas at home last weekend.

REFEREE: Hilario Grajeda. SAR (bench): Paul Scott; JAR (opposite): Peter Balciunas; 4th: Tyler Ploeger MLS Career: 63 games; FC/gm: 24.5; Y/gm: 3.6; R: 14; pens: 9 

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INJURY REPORT: SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC – OUT: GK Josh Ford (R knee stress fracture); GK Andrew Weber (L ankle sprain); DF Michael Tetteh (L hamstring strain); MF Steve Zakuani (R leg fracture); FW Babayele Sodade (R knee ACL tear); DOUBTFUL: MF Alvaro Fernandez (R quad strain); QUESTIONABLE: DF Patrick Ianni (lower back pain); PROBABLE: MF Mauro Rosales (R foot contusion) … LA GALAXY – OUT: DF Omar Gonzalez (L knee surgery); DF Leonardo (R knee surgery); QUESTIONABLE: GK Brian Perk (sports hernia surgery) 

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none SUSPENDED: none

WARNINGS:

SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: none

SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: none 

HEAD-TO-HEAD ALL-TIME (6 meetings): Sounders FC 1 win, 4 goals … Galaxy 3 wins, 9 goals … Ties 2 AT SEATTLE (3 meetings): Sounders FC 0 wins, 1 goal … Galaxy 2 wins, 6 goals … Ties 1

RETURN MATCHES: 8/5: Seattle Sounders FC vs. LA Galaxy, 7 p.m. PT (ESPN2/Deportes); 10/28: LA Galaxy vs. Seattle Sounders FC, 6 p.m. PT (ESPN/Deportes) 

LAST YEAR (MLS): 3/15: SEA 0, LA 1 (Juninho 58) 7/4: LA 0, SEA 0

• The Galaxy are undefeated vs. Sounders FC in MLS league and cup play over the last two seasons. The Galaxy had won five MLS meetings in a row, including both legs of a Western Conference Semifinal Series in 2010, before the teams played to a scoreless draw last July 4 in Carson.

• The Galaxy have won their last three visits to CenturyLink Field to play Seattle (regular-season and playoffs), and have never lost in four all-time games there vs. Sounders FC. Seattle has not scored at home vs. LA in 306 minutes of play.

• Seattle has knocked the Galaxy out of the U.S. Open Cup each of the last two years, winning quarterfinals matches each year at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Wash.

• Coaches record: Sigi Schmid vs. LA: P12 W4 L4 D4 … Bruce Arena vs. SEA: P6 W3 L1 D2 

SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC

Seattle Sounders FC won their second game on the trot, defeating the Chicago Fire 3-2 on Saturday evening at Toyota Park. Sounders FC are in fourth place in the Western Conference with 13 points from 6 games.

LAST MATCH

• Sounders FC went ahead in the 39th minute on an own goal by Arne Friedrich, as David Estrada’s low shot from the corner of the penalty area deflected off of the inside of the German defender’s leg and found its way past an off-balance Sean Johnson at the near post.

GOAL: Eddie Johnson scores his first

• Seattle then doubled their lead in the 67th minute. Johnson lost the handle on a free kick and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado sent it goalward before Eddie Johnson provided the final touch over the line, his first goal in MLS.

• Marco Pappa got one back for the Fire in the 89th minute, scoring directly off a corner kick that caught Michael Gspurning off his line, the ball curling inside the back post.

• Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid made three changes to the team that took a 1-0 win against the Colorado Rapids at CenturyLink Field. Adam Johansson and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado came into the back four for Zach Scott and Patrick Ianni, and Mauro Rosales came in for Alex Caskey.

SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC (4-4-2): Michael Gspurning - Adam Johansson, Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Leo Gonzalez - Mauro Rosales (Marc Burch 51), Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso, David Estrada - Eddie Johnson (Sammy Ochoa 90), Fredy Montero.

TEAM NEWS

• The goal conceded by Sounders FC was their first allowed in 335 minutes, dating back to March 31, the fourth-longest shutout run in MLS this season.

• [Goalkeeper] Michael [Gspurning] said that he basically had no chance to react – all of a sudden it was off the post,” said Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid “I thought he controlled his box well and came out and smothered shots that he needed to, I thought he did a good job dealing with the crosses and being in the right position.”

• Eddie Johnson scored his first MLS goal for Sounders FC in the 2-1 win at Chicago, his first league goal since Sept. 15, 2007, when he scored the last of his 15 goals that season for Kansas City. In fact, it was the first goal Johnson has scored in any official competition since 2010.

• “The team sacrificed a lot bringing me here,” Johnson said. “It’s my second [start] and it’s important to get off to a good start. Without the effort from my teammates and the guys around me tonight, I don’t think that goal would have been possible for me.”

HIGHLIGHTS: CHI 1, SEA 2

• Said Schmid: “It helped his confidence tremendously. Plus he also basically played 90 minutes which is going to help him continue to grow in his fitness, and eventually the timing and so forth. … I thought his touch was not the best in the first half; it was something we talked about at halftime. I thought his touch was better in the second half. ”

• Mauro Rosales, the 2011 MLS Newcomer of the Year, made his first appearance since the season opener in the win at Chicago, starting and playing 51 minutes before forced off with an ankle injury.

• “I am frustrated that I [didn’t] finish the game,” said Rosales. “I was working for a month-and-a-half to come back and, after 10 minutes, I was not the same on the field. I couldn’t run free, play what I wanted to play. That pain that I had in the ankle, I couldn’t do any more than I did. This is what I get frustrated about, not by the kick or anything. Just that I can’t be free to play in the game.”

• In addition, fullback Adam Johansson returned to the lineup after a four-match absence due to a hamstring strain.

• “Obviously we have some tired bodies in there today, so we’ll see who can get back out there in our next game on Wednesday,” said Schmid. “It was good to see Adam [Johansson] go 90 minutes, he said he felt good. Mauro [Rosales], no issues with his knee, it was an early tackle by Segares-he nailed him in the ankle, so he’s got a pretty good bruise there.”

• Sounders FC have not lost a game away from home since last July 30, now 6-0-1 in their last seven MLS road games.

• “Getting the points early in the season is as important as getting them late so you don’t have added pressure on yourselves,” said Schmid. “But certainly it’s our second game away from home and we’re undefeated away from home now with a win and a tie, and that’s something we’re very happy about.” 

LA GALAXY

The LA Galaxy saw their two-game winning streak come to an end but extended their unbeaten run to three games, snatching a late 1-1 draw with FC Dallas at The Home Depot Center. The Galaxy are in seventh place in the Western Conference with 10 points from 7 games.

LAST MATCH

• The Galaxy had a glorious opportunity to take the lead four minutes into the second half when Jair Benítez hauled Landon Donovan down from behind inside the penalty area. Robbie Keane stepped up to take the penalty kick, but the Republic of Ireland captain sent his attempt wide.

HIGHLIGHTS: LA 1, DAL 2

• FC Dallas then took the lead on the hour after being awarded a spot kick of their own. Goalkeeper Bill Gaudette took down Blas Pérez inside the box, and Brek Shea stepped up and buried his second penalty in as many matches as Gaudette barely moved.

• The Galaxy finally hit an equalizer in second-half stoppage time. Chad Barrett collected the ball tackled away from an FCD defender, laid it back to Pat Noonan at the edge of the area, and Noonan placed the ball into the left corner of the goal.

• Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena made one change to the team that held on for a 2-1 win against the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Bill Gaudette came in between the posts in place of Josh Saunders.

LA GALAXY (4-4-2): Bill Gaudette - Sean Franklin, David Junior Lopes (Pat Noonan 81), A.J. DeLaGarza, Todd Dunivant - Landon Donovan, Juninho, David Beckham, Mike Magee (Chad Barrett 74) - Robbie Keane, Edson Buddle (Adam Cristman 74).

TEAM NEWS

• One of the main talking points after the game was Robbie Keane’s missed penalty in the first half. Landon Donovan has taken the last 20 penalty kicks when he has been available for the club – converting 18 – dating back to June 2007.

GOAL: Noonan ties it late

• “I'll be honest with you, if any team has the choice of Robbie Keane or Landon Donovan or [David] Beckham taking penalty kicks, you're real happy,” Arena said. “The easiest thing to do in the aftermath is to be critical. ... There aren't many better players in the world to take penalty kicks than Robbie Keane or Landon Donovan. We missed it.”

• Said Donovan: “I just told Robbie I wanted him to take it. He did everything right except he just mis-hit it a little bit. He’s a guy who’s taken many penalties and made many penalties and I’m sure the next time he takes one it will go in.”

• Bill Gaudette backstopped the draw, stepping in goal in place of Josh Saunders, who missed the game for personal reasons. It was Gaudette’s first MLS appearance since Sept. 30, 2006, when he played for Columbus.

• “It was seamless. We are all thinking about Josh (Saunders) and making sure that everything is going OK with him,” said Donovan. “For coming in on short notice I thought he was great. We probably should’ve had a shutout tonight.”

• Pat Noonan’s first goal since June 27, 2010 – when he scored for Seattle – gave the Galaxy a last-gasp draw against FC Dallas over the weekend.

• “We are creating chances. That is the positive. If we weren’t, then we would be worried about that, but we are creating chances and sooner or later they are going to go in and when they do the floodgates are going to open,” Noonan said.

• The Galaxy have scored five of their 11 goals in the last quarter-hour of matches – second behind only the Colorado Rapids’ six in the final 15 minutes in league play this season.

• “We might have been fortunate to get the draw but we also could have won the game. I think you’re always proud as a player of a team that comes back from a goal down or comes back to win a game or draw a game,” said David Beckham. “We’ve done well to come back from this.”