The Sounders made club history with their first playoff victory, a 1-0 nailbiter against Real Salt Lake in the second leg of the Western Conference semifinal.
Their reward? A quick turnaround and a date with Los Angeles in the conference finals. But don’t tell the Galaxy. They are convinced it should have been Real Salt Lake.
In the waning moments after the Sounders victory, the media relations staff put out a press release announcing their opponent as Real Salt Lake.
“L.A. thought they were playing Salt Lake,” coach Sigi Schmid said after Thursday’s playoff series win against RSL.”We hate to disappoint them. That’s motivation enough for us right now.”
The Galaxy players got in on the trash talk as well, taking note of the team’s dominance of the Sounders prior to this season.
“(The Sounders) have judged themselves based on their successes and failures against us,” Galaxy midfielder Mike Magee told LAGalaxy.com. “This is their MLS Cup.”
L.A. posted a 5-1-2 record against Seattle from 2009 to 2011, including a win in the 2010 Western Conference semifinals.
The Sounders flipped the script this season, winning the first two regular season meetings against the squad. The Galaxy had the last laugh, however, as the team’s 1-0 win in the regular season finale prevented a number 2 seeding in the MLS Cup playoffs.
The club’s head coach sees a different mindset on the eve of the second round. “Advancing was very important for us psychologically, and allows us to continue to grow as a club.”
For the Sounders opponent, fatigue will be the key factor. The veteran, star-laden team will be playing their fourth game in eleven days. They recently dispatched first-seeded San Jose 3-2 on aggregate score. Two of L.A.’s goals in the second leg of the series came off the foot of Robbie Keane, the Galaxy midfielder who led the team in goals for the regular season. The designated player has a tendency to drift to midfield. Seattle defender Jeff Parke will be charged with keeping him off the ball as much as possible.
Schmid, for his part, thinks it can be done.
“I think they’ll tire a bit in the second half,” he said, “and hopefully that will come to our advantage.”
Only time will tell. And with the victor determined by total goals scored over two games, time is not on either team’s side.