Star-powered teams to clash when Sounders, Galaxy meet

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.comSeptember 20, 2013 

Longtime teammates with Team USA, Clint Dempsey, left, and Landon Donovan will be on opposite sides Saturday when Dempsey’s Seattle Sounders meet Donovan’s Los Angeles Galaxy.

PAUL SANCYA/AP FILE, 2011

In terms of star power, the Los Angeles Galaxy usually has lived up to its name.

Now, Seattle Sounders FC has moved to catch and perhaps pass it, not only in the Major League Soccer standings, but also in terms of high-wattage name recognition.

When the teams meet Saturday in Carson, Calif., the Galaxy could send onto the StubHub Center pitch a lineup that includes Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, Omar Gonzalez and Juninho, while the Sounders can counter with Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson, Obafemi Martins and Osvaldo Alonso.

On Thursday, both coaches were asked: Could this game cluster as much firepower as ever assembled on an MLS pitch?

“Yeah, for sure,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “I think when both teams are at 100 percent healthy, and everybody is out there on the field, arguably you could say from an MLS standpoint that’s about as much firepower as two teams on a field have. But at the end of the day, teams win championships, not individuals.”

Los Angeles coach Bruce Arena said he hadn’t given the matter much thought. But once he did, he offered a tempered assessment.

“Neither of these teams has accomplished anything yet this year, so I’m not ready to put either one of us on a pedestal right now,” he said in a conference call. “We obviously have to play this game, play out the season, see how our respective teams do. But both teams certainly have good talent, and obviously (are) teams that have a chance to be pretty good.

“But I’ve coached some good teams in this league that have had some exceptional attacking players as well, so I’m not sure where we put these teams at this point.”

Some of those Galaxy teams have included such stars as David Beckham and Edson Buddle, and before that Carlos Ruiz and Cobi Jones. More important, such players have brought four MLS Cups to Los Angeles.

Schmid admits that puts the Galaxy ahead of the Sounders. But for this match, Seattle comes in with the upper hand, having won five consecutive matches and eight of its past nine. The Sounders are also atop the league standings for the first time since March 2012, and are one of three MLS teams ever to have climbed to the top from 15 points down.

Now with Dempsey and Johnson back from international duty, and with Martins and Brad Evans moving closer to full health, Schmid admits one of his top issues this week will be settling on 11 starters.

“It’s a good problem to have because when you have quality players, it lifts up the level and the intensity of practice because guys want to stay on the field,” he said. “But at the end of the day, everybody’s got to be a professional.”

While Arena is wary about overpraising the accomplishments of any team in September, he admits the kind of name recognition this pairing offers is good for MLS and its NBC Sports Network national audience.

“Anytime we have teams or individuals around the league that get attention, I think it’s a positive for the league,” he said. “We saw it throughout the Beckham years, and Clint coming back is great. Seattle having a very good team and a terrific fan base is great for the league. All of this stuff is good for the league. I think it’s a very exciting time, and hopefully we can put on a good game as well.”

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt

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