The LA Galaxy's 3-0 thrashing of the Seattle Sounders on Monday propelled them into playoff position and reminded us that they are still a very dangerous contender.
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The Galaxy had no interest in playing the role of gracious visitor though, choosing instead to dominate the Sounders on the way to an emphatic 3-0 victory that provided a clear reminder that Bruce Arena’s team is still very much a title contender.
Yes, the Sounders were without MLS Defender of the Year candidate Chad Marshall, who was a late scratch, along with Brad Evans and Leo Gonzalez, but those absences alone didn’t account for the thorough domination laid down by the Galaxy, who outplayed, outhustled and outworked a Sounders team that hadn’t lost at home since March and hadn’t come close to being pummeled at home since last October’s 4-1 loss to Vancouver.
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The Galaxy's victory should not have come as a complete shock. A closer look at LA’s track record will show that the team had just one loss in its past nine matches heading into Monday night’s match. Beating the Sounders improved the Galaxy to 6-1-3 in their past 10 matches, and catapulted LA from sixth place in the West to third place, all with at least one game in hand on every team in the West playoff race.
What we saw was a close to full-strength Galaxy team, with Omar Gonzalez back in the starting lineup for the first time since returning from the World Cup. His partnership with A.J. DeLaGarza in central defense has always been a reliable one, and Monday it stifled Seattle’s dangerous attack with the help of midfielders Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas, who got the better of their Sounders counterparts.
As impressive as the Galaxy defense was, the continued development of young forward Gyasi Zardes is an equally significant aspect of the Galaxy’s recent surge. The 22-year-old striker has flourished since being moved to his natural forward position after an extended run as a winger. He has scored seven goals in his past 10 matches and looks capable of complementing Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan as that third attacking weapon the Galaxy sorely lacked last season (as well as looking like someone Jurgen Klinsmann might want to keep an eye on).
Seattle’s defense was a mess without Marshall and Gonzalez, and DeAndre Yedlin did little to keep his World Cup buzz going on the same night ESPN analyst Alexi Lalas reported MLS is looking for around $5 million for a Yedlin transfer. By no means was Yedlin to blame for Seattle’s ugly loss, but his showing Monday provided a reminder that each passing game can only diminish his transfer value, which wouldn’t get any higher anytime soon after his impressive World Cup.
There isn’t quite reason to sound alarm bells in Seattle just yet. The Sounders have lost two of three matches, but Marshall’s return from back spasms will help settle down the defense while the return of Evans will give Schmid another option to help a midfield that failed to impress in the team’s recent defeats.
The highlight of Monday’s West showdown, or lowlight depending on how you look at it, was an incident involving three U.S. World Cup teammates. Gonzalez shoved Yedlin to the ground after what he thought was an unnecessary swinging of an elbow at DeLaGarza by Yedlin. As Gonzalez stood over Yedlin admonishing the thrown elbow, Clint Dempsey came over and threw all his weight behind a shove of Gonzalez. Dempsey and Gonzalez continued to exchange words, mostly from an amped-up Dempsey.
The incident was a strange one to see for U.S. national team fans, but no different from the kind of scuffles you will find in top leagues around the world, such as Barcelona-Real Madrid clashes or Bayern-Dortmund meetings in Germany. More than the national team ties, the incident served as the most memorable incident in a night filled with tension and animosity between two teams that know each other very well, and clearly don’t like each other.
That tension has a very good chance of being rekindled in the playoffs, when the Sounders and Galaxy will be on the short list of MLS Cup favorites (along with Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake). The Sounders still have to be considered strong candidates to lift their first league title, but Monday’s victory serves as a reminder that the Galaxy could very easily finish this season lifting the club’s fifth MLS Cup.
MLS WEEK 20 REWIND
Player of the Week: Olmes Garcia. The Colombian forward snapped his 2014 goal drought in a major way, coming off the bench to score two goals in Real Salt Lake’s 3-1 victory against Montreaal.
Rookie of the Week: Marlon Hairston. The Colorado Rapids midfielder entered just before halftime of Colorado’s 3-0 win against Chivas USA and was extremely sharp in midfield, connecting on 27 of 29 passes and playing beyond his age of 20.
Team of the Week: LA Galaxy. A 3-0 thrashing of the first-place Sounders was easily the performance of the week.