Sounders’ quest: To beat Galaxy
Even in his first Major League Soccer season, Sounders FC goalkeeper Michael Gspurning understands that the Los Angeles Galaxy is not just another American club.
“Of course the L.A. Galaxy are a special team because of the big names: (David) Beckham, (Robbie) Keane, all of them,” said Gspurning, an Austrian who played his five previous seasons in Greece. “So this makes the team special. But we will have the same preparation as for every other game. We take it as serious as the other games: not less, and not more. On the field, every player is the same. You have to make your work. It doesn’t help if you say, ‘Yeah, on the other side of the field is Beckham and (Landon) Donovan.’ Of course they are great players. But we have a good team, and I don’t see why we shouldn’t win.”
Gspurning and the Sounders will face the Galaxy and its star-studded roster tonight at CenturyLink Field.
The match also will provide an initial taste of the Seattle-L.A. rivalry for first-year Sounders forward Eddie Johnson, who had left MLS for Europe in 2007 – Beckham’s first season in the States, and before Seattle joined the league.
“I’m new to this rivalry, but rivalry games are always big,” said Johnson, who scored his first goal as a Sounder last week. “Sometimes you try not to get caught up in the hype, the pressure, so much, and try to just be yourself. But at the same time, within the team and our fans (expectations) are high when we play these big games.”
The Galaxy, however, is more than hype.
Los Angeles has the league’s best record – 52-21-28 – since Seattle joined MLS in 2009. The Sounders are next at 48-25-27.
The Galaxy has distanced itself from Seattle in other ways. Los Angeles is the two-time defending Supporters’ Shield winner and defending MLS Cup champion – two trophies the Sounders have never won.
Los Angeles also has dominated the head-to-head matches, leading the all-time regular-season series 3-1-2, scoring nine goals to Seattle’s four. L.A. also knocked the Sounders out of the 2010 playoffs.
Given that Galaxy résumé, Sounders coach Sigi Schmid admitted this week that his club will use this game as a measure of its own early-season success.
“As a player, you’re always looking to measure yourself. As a team, you’re always looking to measure yourself,” he said. “You always want to know where you stack up. As a coach, it’s no different. ... Are we ready to take that next step? Are we ready to push on? Now we’re 4-1-1, which is a great start. But we want to continue to build upon that. And we know it’s going to be a dogfight to make the playoffs in the West, and points at home are very important.”
Los Angeles is off to a mediocre start this season: 3-3-1 with 11 goals scored and 11 surrendered.
But Schmid’s admiration for Galaxy’s long-term success isn’t dimmed by such a short-term sample.
“They are a veteran group,” he said. “They’re a group with a lot of experience. They’re a group of World Cup players that have played prominent roles for their countries. As a result of that, you can never look at the record and say that’s a reflection of the team. The team is a reflection of their individuals, and they’ve got some very, very good individuals.”
MLS has fined Johnson an undisclosed amount for making “an inappropriate gesture” as he was leaving the field Saturday after the 2-1 win at Chicago. The club released a statement in which Johnson apologized for “poor judgment” and calling his action “not acceptable.” ... Forward Luis Alvaro Osornio of Federal Way and midfielder Jose Ramos of Tacoma are among the teen finalists advancing to the “Final Event” of Sueño MLS 2012, a Spanish-language player-search program on Univision.
LOS ANGELES GALAXY (3-3-1; 10 POINTS) AT SOUNDERS FC (4-1-1; 13 POINTS)
7 p.m., CenturyLink Field
TV: Ch. 6/16. RADIO: 97.3 FM.
CLUB LEADERS: For L.A. – G 3, Robbie Keane; A 2, three players; S 22, Keane; SOG 12, Keane; GAA 1.67, Josh Saunders. For Seattle – G 4, David Estrada; A 2, Alvaro Fernandez; S 30, Fredy Montero; SOG 8, Estrada and Montero; GAA 0.50, Michael Gspurning.
HEAD TO HEAD: Seattle is 1-3-2 against Los Angeles in league play, and 0-3-1 over the past four meetings. Last season, the Sounders lost at home and played to a scoreless draw on the road. The Galaxy will return to CenturyLink on Aug. 5, and the Sounders visit L.A. on Oct. 28.
NOTES: This is the middle of a three-games-in-eight-days stretch for both teams. That leaves both lineups fluid, and Galaxy coach Bruce Arena has implied David Beckham and perhaps other big names could be out of the lineup. Eddie Johnson also could be among those rested by the Sounders. ... Seattle has the second-best goals-against average (0.50) in MLS; while Los Angeles has the fifth-best goals-scoring average (1.57). ... Seattle is 3-1 at home; the Galaxy is 1-1 on the road. ... Seattle midfielder Alvaro Fernandez (quadriceps) is doubtful and defender Patrick Ianni (back) is questionable. Galaxy defenders Omar Gonzalez and Leonardo are out with knee injuries. ... Seattle is coming off of a 2-1 win at Chicago on Saturday. Los Angeles also played Saturday – a 1-1 draw against FC Dallas, with the Galaxy’s equalizing goal coming in stoppage time from former Sounder Pat Noonan. ... Sounders coach Sigi Schmid (161) and Arena (131) are 1-2 in career MLS wins. ... This is Gspurning’s 31st birthday. ... The referee is Hilario Grajeda.
QUOTABLE: “The Galaxy and ourselves have been the teams that over the last three regular seasons have had the best record when you combine it all together. We always want to be amongst the quality teams. I think we’re there. Now it’s a matter of taking that next step.” – Schmid
NEXT: 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Philadelphia Union, CenturyLink Field.
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