CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy know all about Eddie Johnson and Fredy Montero up front, the depth and quality of Seattle's midfield, and how well prepared and organized Sigi Schmid has the Sounders for every outing.
What the Galaxy are most mindful of heading into Sunday evening's Western Conference Championship opener (9 pm ET, ESPN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com) is how tough it is to beat the Sounders' defense.
The Galaxy managed just one goal in three games against Seattle this season, Mike Magee's 82nd-minute winner in the regular-season finale two weeks ago, and the Sounders' other foes didn't achieve much either. Only Sporting Kansas City conceded fewer goals in Major League Soccer, and Seattle head into the first leg at the Home Depot Center with five shutouts in their last seven league games, including back-to-back clean sheets in the semifinal victory over Real Salt Lake.
“Seattle's not given up many goals as of late,” LA captain Landon Donovan said following Saturday's training session. “I think the first thing that stands out about them is defensively they're very, very good, and, my opinion, along with us, I think they've been the best team in the league overt the last stretch of the season.
“When they have Eddie [Johnson] playing well, if [Mauro] Rosales plays, Brad Evans is playing well, obviously the goal the other night by [Mario] Martínez was special, so they've got a lot of special players on that team. Montero's always dangerous. They create a number of problems, and when their backline and their goalkeeper are playing that well, they're really tough to beat.”
Michael Gspurning has been one of MLS's elite keepers this season, and his back four has been consistently stellar. And in front of them sits Osvaldo Alonso, the “pure ball-winner, as good a defensive midfielder as we have in the league,” according to Galaxy coach Bruce Arena.
“They have continuity, first of all,” Donovan said. “All of us in this league think that having a back four and one of two midfielders that play all the time and a goalkeeper that plays all the time produces results. Jeff Parke's been one of the best defenders in the league this year, [fellow center back Jhon Kennedy] Hurtado is solid, [right back Adam] Johansson's been good, and then the key to their team, I think, in any circumstance is Alonso.
“He's the guy that, I'm sure, when Sigi puts his lineup out every game, knows what he's getting out of that guy. He's very good and he's very influential, and he's going to be a very big part of their team in the next two games.”
Despite their praise for the Sounders defense, the Galaxy nonetheless believe their attack can break down the Sounders' defense, especially after their first-half showing to beat San Jose in the Western semifinal decider Wednesday night.
“I think they're quite similar [to San Jose]. I think the actual team is very similar in how they play, to be honest with you ...,” forward Robbie Keane said. “Hopefully, that will benefit us. Hopefully, the outcome is similar as well.”