Since the weekend was filled with barbecues, families, and time away from the pseudo grind of the world, we decided to skip out on our weekly podcast. But we all love our "Game of the Week" contest so much that we decided to still preview tonight’s game of the week between Seattle and LA. This is what we do for you, America. This is our service.
The LA Galaxy are playing a soccer game? ESPN, you know what to do... broadcast it at a time when everyone East of Utah will be asleep! After last week's Galaxy v Red Bulls snoozefest took 89 minutes for anything to happen, ESPN has decided to go double or nothing and show the slumping Galaxy against a Seattle team on a roll. It has largely been because Lamar Neagle (no, seriously) has either found out how to use those neon jerseys to blind defenders, or finally decided he's an MLS quality striker. After Seattle started the season unable to score goals, the Sounders are now getting them in bunches. Or as I like to put it: they're regressing to the mean with a vengeance!
As for the Galaxy, their dependence on Juninho
was exposed last week after a hard tackle from his namesake forced him to leave the game early. Los Angeles never got back into sync with him off the field, and New York dominated the rest of the game. As of this writing, his status is still up in the air, but If the Galaxy are going to keep Ozzie Alonso
in check they'll need Juninho
to keep him occupied. Should Garcia (or anyone else) get the start in Juninho's place, then Alonso will get more forward than he otherwise would, freeing up Neagle, Martins, and family to attack the net. Couple that with the fact that Carlo Cudicini
has looked as good in goal this season as Jimmy Nielsen
looks in jorts
, and the Galaxy could be in for a hurtin'.
All that said, the Galaxy have been very solid at home this season, and the Fishing Village to the North have found their scoring touch at home, but still struggle to get goals on the road. My prediction: if Juninho plays, the Galaxy will pull this out 2-1. If not, it will be a 1-1 draw.
The Sounders have come on strong recently, recording 13 points in their last five matches. I checked for a recent dip in Seattle's strength of schedule, but there was no such dip to be found. Seattle has played three of those last five matches on the road, including a win on the road in Kansas City and a win at home over Dallas.
The Sounders' win at Colorado shouldn't be overlooked either. I will be coming out with a strength of schedule index soon, but my beta version* suggests that the Rapids have played the toughest schedule to this point (along with New England). That's not to mention that, as the away team, Seattle was giving up an estimated third-of-a-goal in an uphill battle. Impressive stuff.
But after saying all those wonderful things about Seattle, my three points this week go to the Galaxy in a one-goal victory. Though the Sounders find themselves second in the tables in goal differential, they are second to the Galaxy. Though the Sounders have an impressive 1.21 Shots-on-goal Ratio, the Galaxy have outdone them again at 1.37. Though the Sounders' strength of schedule has been difficult recently, over the course of the season it's the Galaxy that have faced seemingly tougher opponents. The final nail in the coffin is that the game will be played in Los Angeles, and that third-of-a-goal advantage will lie with the Galaxy. LA drew more than 20,000 fans to its last home match on May 5th, and you can bet they'll show up for the red hot Sounders.
*Strength of schedule is currently based on opponents' goal differentials and shots-on-goal ratios.
I write a lot about the Sounders over the course of the week so let me make this simple. They were taking shots; at first they weren't going in and then, recently, they started all going in. Somewhere in between these two truths lies the median of this organization. They aren't as good or as lucky as what they've been in cumulatively over the past 2 1/2 weeks. But they certainly weren't as bad as what they were to start the season. It's a bit difficult to gauge the true talent level of this squad because of how frequent these parts are moving about.
Unfortunately, for the Sounders, Ozzie Alonso
is suffering from a groin strain
that will probably prevent him from making an appearance and Steve Zakuani
is still not able to go this weekend. Which will force the Sounders to work with an inopportune 18 and even a less-conducive starting XI. This isn't something new to them this year, but I imagine that it's still going to be tough for them to deal with due to how Los Angeles works the ball through the middle of the field with Marcelo Sarvas.
However, the Galaxy are also dealing with injuries to their central midfield---specifically with Juninho who, as Drew mentioned above, was taken out ironically enough by a rough tackle from New York's opposing Juninho. Los Angeles uses an assortment of means to move the ball up the pitch. They average more shots than their opponents, more possessions and longer ones by the standard of TFS.
Despite that, they've managed an impressive 17 points in 11 games and are still considered one of the more unlucky teams in all the league.
Adding to their attack the athletic Robbie Rogers and a Landon Donovan---who has something to prove to Jurgen Klinsmann---and all of a sudden you have a club that is very dangerous and probably one of the better ones in the league. Add that to the likelihood of the Sounders shot-to-goal ratio coming back to earth and the absence of Ozzie Alonso, and you end up with a very likely Galaxy win at home. I don't think it's going to be anywhere a long the lines of the Sounders defeat from the playoffs, but a 2-1 victory wouldn't surprise me.
Current Standings (as best as I can remember them):
Drew 0 - 3 ; Prediction: LA (if Juninho plays)
Matthias 2 - 3 ; Prediction: LA
Harrison 1 - 4 ; Prediction: LA