After a long regular season which saw the Los Angeles Galaxy claim the Supporter's Shield, it has come time for the MLS Cup tourney. As with every great tournament, the first round serves as a sorting out stage amongst many worthy contenders and the Galaxy's first round host, the Seattle Sounders, are no different. Seattle, one of six teams from the west to qualify, finished fourth in the Western Conference with 48 pts from 30 matches. On July 11th, after losing to the LA Galaxy at the Home Depot Center, the Sounders were in seventh place and well out of the playoffs. Since then they've won 10 of their final 14 matches, securing a spot in the MLS Cup playoffs three weeks ago.
Needless to say, the Galaxy are marching into Seattle for this first leg matchup to face a team in top form. The Galaxy finished at the top of the league with 59 points over 30 games, but they also began the season with a 12 game unbeaten steak (10-0-2) which put them at 32 pts after just 12 games. The debate runs eternal: do you find fault with the Galaxy only getting 27 points out of their last 18 games (8-7-3) or do you give them credit for going wire to wire at the top of the table. The Galaxy starting XI, while loaded with talent, has had to learn to play without Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle, then work them back into the fold, then find a way to fold David Beckham in.
The Sounders come into the MLS Cup playoffs with a seven game home unbeaten streak. The Sounders set a regular season attendance record, averaging 36, 173 fans. So for any team marching into Quest field marching out with points is no small task. However the Galaxy, back when they were in top form, tallied a 4-0 victory over Seattle at Quest field. How much that early result still means is debatable, but it does provide a point of focus. Despite all the talk of the fans, the streak, the artificial turf, that early result still stands.
The Galaxy scored 44 goals in 30 games, tied with Colorado for 2nd best in MLS and one fewer than Real Salt Lake; Seattle scored 39 goals in 30 games, sixth most in MLS. The Galaxy's 4 goals at Quest Field on May 8th was their season high, while the Sounders didn't achieve their season high until a 4-0 win at Columbus on September 18th. The Galaxy were shut out eight times to the Sounders' seven, although five of the Sounders' shutouts came before June 1st.
Sounders FC come into the match as one of the hottest teams in MLS. They recorded 5 consecutive wins from Sep 18th to Oct 15th, before losing their season finale to Houston; Only Real Salt Lake had a win streak that long. Over the second half of the season, Seattle had more points than any other MLS team, seven more than Real Salt Lake and eight more than FC Dallas. The Galaxy were no slouches at the end, recording five victories in their last seven games, their only stumbles against Colorado Rapids in a match which could have clenched the Supporter's Shield and New York Red Bulls in a heavily publicized match. The middle portion of the campaign hurt the Galaxy the most, going 3-5-3 from June 9 to September 4th.