MLS is back with a bang, and Goal.com gives you the lowdown on the opening match.
Seattle Sounders FC: Forward Fredy Montero looks ready to once again be Seattle’s primary offensive threat in 2011. In the Sounders’ last tuneup match, the Colombian played a role in all three tallies in the 3-0 victory over current MLS Cup champions Colorado Rapids. Montero lofted a perfect free kick that was redirected into the net by defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, and he took advantage of one-touch passes from Erik Friberg and O’Brian White to notch his other two scores. The Sounders will need his playmaking and scoring skills to keep up with the talent-laden Galaxy.
Los Angeles Galaxy: For the first time since 2008, the Galaxy have David Beckham available for their first game of the season. Beckham has also made a point of stressing how his offseason training at Tottenham earlier in the year has actually helped his fitness and made him more ready to be an asset to the Galaxy this year. The midfielder is in the last year of his MLS contract, and if there's ever a time to prove to many skeptical Galaxy fans that he's serious about bringing a trophy to Los Angeles, this is the time to do it, by hitting the ground running.
Seattle: The Sounders lost starting midfielders Brad Evans and Steve Zakuani to injuries in the win over the Rapids. Winger Zakuani suffered a right hip injury and Evans left the pitch holding his right hamstring. According to head coach Sigi Schmid, the decision whether they play or not will be made the day before Tuesday’s match. Neither player played a significant role in Sunday’s practice.
Los Angeles: Where, oh where will the goals come from? With goalscorer galore Edson Buddle off to Germany, the Galaxy have brought in Juan Pablo Angel to fill the void. Angel is savvy and experienced, but not fast or young.
In preseason action, even with the benefit of Beckham's service, Angel hasn't lit up the scoreboard. He has, however, had a number of close calls, with balls banging off the posts and crossbar, so perhaps it's just taking him a bit of time to get dialed in. If the aging striker doesn't get some goalscoring help from Chad Barrett or Adam Cristman, or Landon Donovan, though, the Galaxy could be in big trouble from the start of the 2011 season.
Seattle: If Evans and Zakuani are out, Schmid will have some interesting lineup decisions to make. The veteran gaffer said in his post game press conference after the Colorado game that his squad is deep enough to handle the injuries. The Sounders will miss Zakuani’s speed, slashing runs into the box, and scoring ability. However, Friberg and White did manage to net assists as second-half subs in the Colorado match. It appears that the final starters will remain in a flux pending Evans’ and Zakuani’s ability to heal before game time.
Los Angeles: Galaxy coach Bruce Arena isn't given to exotic tactics, and the new-look Galaxy will appear much the same as last season. One question is who will pair with Omar Gonzales in central defense, since veteran and now player-coach Gregg Berhalter is recovering from an injury. It could be Leonardo, the athletic but inconsistent Brazilian, or A.J. DeLaGarza, the small, but versatile defender who partnered Gonzalez in defense to a university championship.
Seattle: The preseason atmosphere around the club felt more focused and business-like. In their previous two training camps, the Sounders made trips outside of the U.S. for some of the preseason matches. This year the club played mostly MLS sides. Gone were the distractions of being an expansion franchise, Freddie Ljungberg’s problems with teammates and management, and the 2010 strike threat. The LA game will be an interesting and early test of this new approach.
Los Angeles: Something about Seattle juices up the Los Angeles players and they usually perform well enough to leave the vaunted crowds at Sounders matches quiet and frustrated. If Seattle fires up the home fans by going ahead early, though, that script could flip completely.
Seattle: "Donovan, Beckam, Angel, Omar Gonzalez, Ricketts…" is how Schmid responded when asked for a Galaxy scouting report. The Sounders are overmatched in this one. Seattle Sounders FC 1 (Montero) – 3 LA Galaxy (Donovan, Angel-2)
Los Angeles: Sometimes logic must be laid aside for things that repeatedly keep happening. It's not that the Galaxy are so good or that Seattle is a really bad squad, but somehow, the Galaxy keep beating Seattle, either home or away. It's some weird force of nature - like the tide. Seattle 1-2 Galaxy.
Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller previews the match. Watch below.
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