Clint Dempsey and the Seattle Sounders take on Landon Donovan and the LA Galaxy in a battle of Major League Soccer's top title contenders.The current top team in MLS takes on the defending MLS Cup champions as the first-place Seattle Sounders meet the Los Angeles Galaxy in a high-profile showdown at StubHub Center on Saturday night.
The star-studded clash features U.S. national team stars Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan in their first club battle since Dempsey left MLS in 2006. The storylines don't end there, as Bruce Arena and Sigi Schmid, two of the most successful coaches in league history, try to show which high-priced squad is the true MLS Cup favorite.
The match is a vital one for both teams, with Seattle trying to hold onto the lead in the Supporters' Shield race and the Galaxy trying to maintain a top three spot in the West. LA still has a chance to contend for the Supporters Shield, but anything short of a victory Saturday would effectively end those chances.
Robbie Keane has been a thorn in Seattle's side since joining the league and will be key to the Galaxy's chances of earning the home victory. The Irish striker notched a hat trick the last time these teams met, a 4-0 Galaxy romp, and has looked unstoppable in most of his matches versus the Sounders, who are 0-2 vs. LA this season.
The current Sounders squad have a different look, though, and may be fielding the strongest team in the club's history. Beset by injuries and international call-ups for much of the year, the Sounders finally are mostly healthy as a squad. The result is a team with myriad options, particularly in attack.
Obafemi Martins and Eddie Johnson have been outstanding this season, but the recent play of Lamar Neagle has been a key reason for the team's current run of eight wins in nine matches. Neagle's speed and ability to find gaps in the opposing defense have made him a serious threat, and the presence of attackers like Martins, Johnson and Dempsey has made it that much more difficult to contain Neagle.
The Galaxy are coming off a lackluster 2-2 draw versus D.C. United that raised some eyebrows. The team's flat showing, coupled with Omar Gonzalez's first major gaffe in a while after committing so many earlier in the year, has to raise some questions about an LA team coping with the injury absence of A.J. DeLaGarza.
A bigger question mark for the Galaxy is the status of Landon Donovan, who is carrying an ankle injury that forced him out of last week's tie versus United. His outstanding form in recent months has been key to the Galaxy's attacking success, so if he is hampered, or can't start, it will be a big blow to a Galaxy side that can oftentimes rely too heavily on Keane and Donovan's creativity and scoring threats.
The Sounders will enter the clash with some confidence after last week's impressive 2-0 victory versus Real Salt Lake. Schmid's side won the match handily despite leaving Dempsey and Johnson out of the starting lineup. Both U.S. national team players are likely to be reintroduced into starting roles against the Galaxy, but it remains to be seen just who will wind up having to sit to make room for them.