A shorthanded LA Galaxy squad will travel to Seattle for a Saturday afternoon matchup against a red-hot Sounders team (1 p.m.; ESPN, ESPN Deportes) that should, at the very least, be interesting.
The Galaxy will be without five starting players including all three Designated players, and their leader in goals and assists. While the Sounders will come into the game with two new pieces and a renewed purpose fueling their rise up the standings.
Romain Alessandrini (Knee Bruise), Giovani dos Santos (Quad Strain), Jonathan dos Santos (Groin Strain), and Michael Ciani (Hamstring Tightness) will all miss because of injuries sustained the last two games. Zlatan Ibrahimovic will miss the game because it’s being played on artificial turf — a surface he’s only played limited minutes on this season, and one he has no love for.
“I don’t know which turf it is,” Ibrahimovic told reporters about Seattle’s Century Link Field. “For me, all of them are the same. And I think it’s a shame to play on turf because football was not created on turf. But so far I didn’t play on turf. I think I did one game in Portland — 10 minutes — and that was the worst turf I ever played on. So that says everything.”
The Galaxy (10-8-7) will need to get creative with their lineup. The club is winless in its last 3 games but has lost just once in their previous 12. And with five starters missing from the roster, the Galaxy may be forced to put right-back Rolf Feltscher into the lineup to get some defensive reinforcements and make up for the clipped offensive wings. Feltscher hasn’t played a minute since starting in a 2-0 loss to Atlanta United back on April 21.
The Sounders (9-9-5) enter the game on a five-game winning streak and are 6-1-2 in their last nine games. They’ve moved in two new pieces in defender Brad Smith and striker Raul Ruidiaz and seemed to have overcome the injuries of Jordan Morris and Clint Dempsey.
Their leader in goals and assists, Nico Lodeiro (6 goals, 7 assists), has two goals and two assists in their last three games, with the club coming off a scrappy 2-1 victory over FC Dallas in Seattle last weekend.
“They’ve done a good job in terms of always bringing in some pretty good reinforcements,” former Sounders coach and current Galaxy head coach Sigi Schmid told reporters after training on Thursday. “(Raul) Ruidiaz is a good one, (Brad) Smith the fullback they signed. They found a couple of good pieces to add to their team. They’re more healthy; (Osvaldo) Alonso was in and out, in and out, in and out, now he seems to be playing on a consistent basis.”
And the Sounders’ late-season surge certainly isn’t anything new. With the club winning it’s only MLS Cup in 2016 after a disastrous start to the season saw the firing of SCHMID, the acquisition of Lodeiro, and eventually a rapid rise up the standings and into the playoffs.
“(They’ve won) Five in a row, right,” Galaxy midfielder Chris Pontius added. “It’s been like that the last three years they’ve done the same thing, right? They’ve kind of stuttered off the starting block a little bit, then they get red-hot and they’re a tough team to play against. They seem to always add a piece in mid-season that kind of changes things for them.
“They’re going to be flying, especially at home,” he continued. “They’re going to be very tough to beat there.”
The Galaxy faced a similar shorthanded situation when they traveled up to Vancouver earlier in the year missing many of the same players. In that match, a scoreless draw at BC Place, the Galaxy focused on defense, playing five defenders behind the ball, and looking to spring the occasionally chance forward.
The game planning against the Sounders should be similar.
But with a Galaxy defense that has conceded 42 goals on the season — eighth worst in the league — relying on a porous backline might be too tall a task against the Sounders. And Lodeiro and Ruidiaz might find themselves in a shooting gallery while Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham attempts to hold back a flood in the making.
The Galaxy sit fourth in the Western Conference, just three spots above the playoff line. The Sounders sit just two spots below the playoff line right now, but are closing the gap soon. Both teams need the points to buoy their post-season hopes, but the Galaxy, even with their current positioning, face an uphill climb in this game.
But that climb might just help them block out all the distractions a little bit more.
“Can we rise to the occasion,” Galaxy midfielder Sebastian LLetget asked rhetorically to reporters. “Absolutely. We should play every team at our best. We’ll see how it goes and take it game by game. Seattle will definitely be a tough test for us. I think there are bright times ahead. We just have stay focused.”
Larry Morgan contributed to this report.