If there's one thing the local soccer pundits and even the Galaxy players agree on, it's the belief that this will be a close series. Like any classic MLS playoff matchup, the two legs are anticipated to be fast, physical, and entertaining. Expect the tackles to be flying as neither side looks to give an inch.
This also appears to be a series that's going to go down to a few plays. With that in mind, how will LA look to create precious opportunities against Seattle?
Seattle's center back conundrum. As good as Chad Marshall has been all year, it's no secret the Sounders have had difficulty finding a partner for the outside MVP candidate. (Yes, he's been that good) After trading away Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Patrick Ianni during the offseason, Jimmi Troare and Jalil Anibaba struggled, paving the way for Zach Scott to claim a starting spot.
Described by Matt Doyle as rugged, which is the polite way of saying his defensive tenacity makes up for being old and slow, Scott has filled in admirably.
However, the lifelong Sounder can be exposed against quick, skillful attackers. Scott also has a habit of fouling opponents in dangerous areas with his aggressive play, and was lucky not to give up a penalty last week after barreling into Fabian Castillo, sending the Columbian sprawling to the turf. (And clipping his foot for good measure)
If the Galaxy can isolate him 1 on 1 vs. Robbie Keane, watch out.
Exploit the gap. Part of what makes the Sounders so dangerous is their ability to quickly get the ball to Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins in transition from different areas of the field with ease. In terms of attacking symmetry, they're 2nd in the league, only trailing...you guessed it, LA.
But with DeAndre Yedlin and Brad Evans sitting back more than usual to stymie the wrath of Landon Donovan, there is inherently more responsibility on the left sided duo of Lamar Neagle and Leo Gonzalez to push up the field and keep the offensive shape, leaving a sizeable gap for the Galaxy attack.
Distribution chart of last two LA-SEA matchups
If that gap looks familiar to Galaxy fans, it's because LA cut through it like butter for all three goals of the July blowout at CenturyLink. It's also the same area FC Dallas were able to create their most dangerous chances.
Assuming Stefan Ishizaki gets the start on Sunday, it's vital he makes an impact.
Does LA have the mental edge?
No one wants to win this series more than Landon Donovan. With all due respect to an ultra-competitor in Clint Dempsey, Clint isn't retiring from the game this year.
What does that mean exactly? Admittedly, it's difficult to put into words just how Landon's retirement has affected his game. So I highly recommend you watch this clip from the Gratland documentary on LD to get a real inside perspective on how ridiculously focused Landon is right now.
Just how focused is Donovan? Against Real Salt Lake, American soccer fans witnessed the rarest and most beautiful of Landon moods, possessed Landon.
Conversely, Dempsey missed two big chances vs. FC Dallas to put Seattle ahead.
Keep in mind I'm not accusing the Sounders of not being focused. (You can go ahead and put that Sharpie down, Brian) But circumstances matter. Right now, the Galaxy look like a team with something to prove, and the Sounders are playing like a team buzzed on confidence after winning two trophies.
(Not to mention Robbie Keane, who's certain to be out for blood after sitting on the bench for the first time in 13 years for Ireland)
Meanwhile, there are still plenty of unanswered questions before kickoff on Sunday.
Will Osvaldo Alonso recover from a hammy injury in time for the game? Check out our friends at Sounder at Heart for all the latest updates.
Will Gyasi Zardes break out of his playoff slump? Without a goal or assist in four playoff games, will Gyasi be able to contribute when it matters most?
Which coach will blink first? Stefan Ishizaki should start, but will A.J. DeLaGarza continue to play on the right, or will Bruce move him next to Omar again and insert Dan Gargan back into the lineup? Does Sigi have anything up his sleeve?
Stay tuned, Galaxy fans.