TUKWILA, Wash. – It all comes down to this one game.
The Supporters’ Shield will be decided at last on Saturday afternoon, as the Seattle Sounders and LA Galaxy meet in their second game in as many weeks, this time in Seattle at CenturyLink Field (2:30 pm ET, NBC).
The teams are currently tied at 61 points atop the MLS standings, with Seattle needing a win or a draw to take the Shield due to their tiebreaker advantage of having more total wins. LA, meanwhile, need a victory to claim the league’s top spot.
“At this stage of the season there’s no secrets,” Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid told reporters after Seattle’s practice on Friday. “There’s nothing that teams aren’t aware of about each other. It’s a matter of execution.”
The Supporters’ Shield may not be the only piece of hardware on the line in this most consequential of season finales. Seattle’s Obafemi Martins and LA’s Robbie Keane, two of the leading MVP candidates in MLS, will each be afforded opportunities to make their final case.
Schmid was diplomatic when discussing the race after the game Sunday, naming Donovan and Galaxy forward Gyasi Zardes as additional players that may deserve votes on the Galaxy side in addition to Keane. Schmid also pointed to Seattle midfielder Osvaldo Alonso and defender Chad Marshall as players from his own team that are critical to the success of his squad.
“I don’t know,” Schmid told reporters of the MVP race. “You guys vote on that. There’s a lot of MVPs on both these teams…For us, Martins does great stuff but [Clint] Dempsey is equally as important.”
Martins may have done the most to bolster his chances during Seattle’s last matchup against LA last Sunday, tallying assists on each of the Sounders goals as they rallied from a 2-0 deficit and salvaged an important draw.
Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan lauded the chemistry between Martins and his fellow star forward Dempsey following last Sunday’s game.
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“[Martins] is a great player,” Donovan said. “He and Clint are a handful. They see each other well, they combine well, they move well, they create chances and they are dangerous in front of the goal. They are a very, very good tandem.”
But the Galaxy present a formidable dynamic duo of their own in Keane and Donovan, and Seattle’s defense will have the tough task of shutting them down for a second week in a row.
“I think we were just very aware of our line and I think communication was good in the last game,” Marshall said on Thursday. “Obviously we know they’re dangerous players. If we can keep them in front of us and not let them get in behind, then that’ll be a good thing.”