CARSON, Calif. – How much does the Los Angeles Galaxy’s victory over the Seattle Sounders at Qwest Field last weekend count for?
Aside from giving them a one-goal lead in the teams’ two-leg Western Conference Semifinal series, the victory surely counts as a confidence-booster and might allow the Galaxy to play more relaxed at home.
“It doesn’t work like that,” midfielder David Beckham said. “We have to know that going into the game on Sunday, we know that we’ve got the 1-0 advantage but it doesn't mean anything.”
The Galaxy will try and close out the series with Seattle at the Home Depot Center on Sunday (9 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPN Deportes) and advance to the Western Conference Final, which would be played in Carson for the second consecutive year. A draw would be enough to advance.
[inline_node:322667]But players won’t be strolling into Sunday’s game with a false sense of security.
“It’s always nice to have a goal advantage coming home but in our playoffs, the way it’s set up, there’s no real advantage,” Los Angeles captain Landon Donovan said. “Everybody’s got an equal chance to win.”
If Seattle wins by one goal, the match would feature an extra 30 minutes of play which, if the aggregate score is still even afterward, would be followed by penalties. But if the Sounders win by two or more goals, the Galaxy’s season will end.
No matter what, Seattle need some offense. At Qwest Field, the Sounders did well at time putting pressure on the Galaxy goal, but Donovan Ricketts made several strong saves to keep them of the scoreboard.
On Sunday, the onus will be on the Sounders to attack and try to break through the LA defense. Galaxy players aren’t expecting much of a different look from Seattle.
“They didn’t play bad in the last game," Beckham said. "They played well. They still created a lot of chances. They still could have even drawn the game or won the game. I don't think they'll change much. We’re well aware of their strengths and the way they play and the dangerous players they’ve got.”
Whether it’s in the first minute or the 61st minute, Seattle will have to take some risks at some point in the second leg, Donovan said.
“My guess is at some point they have to be aggressive and try and find a goal,” he said. “Our focus has to be not to be tentative, not to be cautious, to go and try and play the game like we’re playing in a game at home to win.”
What the Galaxy need to do as well is to play with their usual mentality and not allow the aggregate score to dictate their approach.
“We want to play the way we’re good at playing, the way we know how to win,” Donovan said. “In general, that’s a little more cautious than it is aggressive so it's not going to change from that standpoint but we’re not going into the game thinking, ‘Let’s do everything we can to tie the game and get out of here.’”
What’s certain, Donovan said, is that the Galaxy won’t be giving anything away.
“If they’re going to score,” he said, “they’ll really have to earn it.”