The Fourth of July is an important weekend in the summer entertainment industry. Memorial Day kicks off summer schedules, but the Fourth of July is when things start to peak. It kicks of vacation (or holiday for my English readers) season here in America, and everyone tries to put on their best show. ESPN will be showing four MLS matches this weekend, which must set some sort of record. MLS will be putting it's best on display, headlined by the Los Angeles Galaxy hosting the Seattle Sounders. The fireworks extravaganza will have to compete with the Dodgers up the road, but should be a sellout at HDC.
In anticipation of the biggest match at HDC since LAvNY, we turn to Dave Clark of Sounder at Heart. He'll be answering some questions previewing the match:
LAGC: The Sounders are tied with the Galaxy for the goal lead in the Western half. Yet, they have no one in the Golden Boot chase and no one in the assist chase. Where are all these goals coming from?
S@H: When Steve Zakuani and O'Brian White were lost for the foreseeable future Sigi had to come up with new offensive structures. He's shifted to a more diamond midfield concentrating on technical skill rather than wing speed and a target forward. Seattle has even shifted to two smalls at the forward role lately, most often going with Fredy Montero and Mike Fucito. The offense is now about taking and creating opportunity with footwork. In some ways the style is less exciting, but more skillful. There is a significant amount of interchange, so different players will be in scoring places. Seattle will continue to peice things together rather than concentrate on a single player to be their offensive spark.
LAGC: Three matches between LA and Seattle in a little over a week. Do you imagine the squad for the US Open match will more closely the Fourth of July squad or the reserve match squad? Is three straight cups a goal, or is this the year you go full out for the MLS Cup?
S@H: Adrian Hanauer's ownership and success with the USL Sounders leads the organization to having a much higher value on the US Open Cup than all but DC and Chicago. After beating several MLS teams when his Sounders were down in the minors there is obviously a desire to win it now in MLS. The fans here have embraced the tournament as well, and take a ton of pride in the back-to-back trophies. With Joe Roth's goals of becoming a global power at the Club World Cup beating famous teams in games that matter the Open Cup is a clear path. Seattle will have a strong mix of starters and reservists in the Quarterfinal, even on short rest after the Portland Timbers game. Those reservists aren't bad, they are now 6-0-0 in that League, and if Sigi sprinkles in players like Mike Fucito, Osvaldo Alsonso and one of the three centerbacks it is a good squad even at MLS level.
LAGC: Which transfer rumor do you think has more traction, Lucas Neill or Prince Tagoe?
S@H: I strongly hope that the Prince Tagoe rumor is the one that is real. Seattle has a strong defense in the core with Kasey Keller, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Jeff Parke, Patrick Ianni and Osvaldo Alonso. They are a touch week on the counter, but I doubt that the a 33 year old fading 'star' will be the answer. With Sigi still looking at attacking out the fullback position Lucas Neill just doesn't seem like a fit there either. It would be an odd use of resources.
Flip it, reverse it
S@H: At one point I made the mistake of thinking that the LA Galaxy were going to be weaker during the Gold Cup, but they more than held their own. What was the key in making up for their lost players?
LAGC: Most important was our depth at goalkeeper. I knew losing Landon Donovan would hurt, but Donovan Ricketts keeps a pretty clean net. Josh Saunders however, shows up on the goalkeeping leader board above several starting keepers. He has a better goals allowed rate than Houston's Tally Hall. He kept the Galaxy's 479 minute no goals allowed streak going in Rickett's absence. In the middle, Chris Birchall and Juninho stepped up, not to mention Mike Magee, but Saunders deserves so much credit.
S@H: How has the addition of Juan Pablo Angel gone?
LACG: Ahahaha. Hahahahaha.
But seriously. Juan Pablo Angel can't catch a break. He hadn't scored a goal at home up until the match against Toronto FC. Then he scores what appears to be the game winner, only to have Alan Gordon rain on his parade. Which is also quite humourous. He's starting to find his way with the team, but it's been rocky. He's more of a #2 forward, and the Galaxy need him to be a target man because they don't have a target man. I told Bruce he should just buy that Chicharito guy. He's supposed to be alright.
I really hope sarcasm has made its way to the Pacific Northwest.
S@H: For the wrong reasons Brian Perk is almost certain to be the starter against the Sounders. What is he good at and where does he need time to develop?
LAGC: Brian Perk played in the US Open Cup match, has been playing with the reserve team, and has gotten time in practice. I'd say the one thing he needs to develop now is experience. Only thing can really develop that is time. I expect you'll see a keeper who looks like he's trying to teach goal keeping. He'll make all the right motions but I doubt he'll let loose and do something spectacular. Or maybe he will. Hard to know how a reserve league player will take to being trust into that role. Started for the US U-20s in the 2009 U-20 World Cup. We didn't make it out of the group stages.