CARSON, Calif. — With nearly four months of the regular season gone, the LA Galaxy sit atop the overall league table and, if things remain the same, the club will surely capture the Supporters’ Shield. But glory in another competition is much closer than that.
The Galaxy will visit Seattle on Wednesday in a US Open Cup quarterfinal match (10 pm ET, watch LIVE stream), with the winner advancing to play FC Dallas in the semifinals next month.
For Galaxy players, a trophy within reach is even more motivation to try and topple the Sounders.
“We want to take this thing seriously,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “The reality is that there are three more games to win and if we win three games, we win a championship.”
Donovan said he is ready to play in the game, but whether he steps onto the field at the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Wash., is not his decision.
“I would like to play,” Donovan said. “It’s up to Bruce [Arena]. It's not an easy place to go play, but it's a game I want to be a part of.”
In 2010, Seattle knocked LA out of the US Open Cup in the same scenario. This time around, the club is hoping for a different result.
“Looking back last year, we have some regrets,” Galaxy midfielder Michael Stephens said. “We had a great season, won the Supporters’ Shield, made it to the conference semifinals but in both competitions, in and out of the league, we didn't do so well. This is a big game that we have to take seriously.”
Playing in Seattle always means the same thing: rabid fan support. While the Galaxy have done well to deal with the large crowds at then-Qwest Field, the club will face a similar situation in Tukwila.
“The atmosphere is crazy [at Starfire] because the fans are really close, just like you see at [CenturyLink Field],” Stephens said. “It's a good crowd, but when they're even closer like that it's even more intimidating.”
The Galaxy faced some difficult moments in reaching the quarterfinal phase of the Open Cup. Against the LA Blues last month, the Galaxy fell behind 1-0 before rallying for two late goals and winning 2-1.
While LA did not have David Beckham or Landon Donovan dress for that match, the club did go with several experienced players in the lineup, including Omar Gonzalez, Sean Franklin, Gregg Berhalter and Mike Magee. Juninho came on as a second-half substitute and helped spark the rally with two free kicks that led to both goals.
For this match, Arena said his squad will go with a similar approach, and that Beckham and Donovan would get “strong consideration” with regards to playing time. Both Seattle and the Galaxy played over the weekend and because of little time between games, the way the teams line up will likely be different, if only slightly.
“[Seattle] will have a short turnover, a little shorter than we do for the game,” Arena said. “It might be a situation where most of their guys are ready to go and that's likely. [That’s] probably a similar case for ourselves as well.”
In the last two years, facing Seattle in the Open Cup meant certain doom as Seattle have won the tournament two years running. The Galaxy, however, have had success against Seattle in MLS play, including a series victory over the Sounders in the 2010 MLS Cup Playoffs as well as regular-season wins over the club in the both 2010 and 2011.
“Seattle are a team that's playing very well right now,” Donovan said. “But [they’re] a team we know we can beat and we're going to go there with the intention of winning.”