Seattle Sounders FC and the Los Angeles Galaxy will settle their Supporters Shield race face to face in back-to-back games.
This is probably the dream scenario MLS had it mind when it scheduled the two Western Conference powers to conclude their regular seasons with a Sunday meeting in Southern California followed by their regular-season finales Saturday in Seattle.
It marks the first time the Sounders have ever played the same opponent in consecutive regular season games.
“MLS feels that they’ve done a masterstroke there with these teams finishing up and competing for the Supporters Shield,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “And obviously there’s the possibility of meeting in the second round of the playoffs. We want to be there, and I’m sure they want to be there, as well. It will be an interesting, fun test for sure.
“We always enjoy playing good teams, and they’re a good team.”
The teams go into the opening match with 60 points each over 32 games. They are the only remaining contenders for Supporters Shield, which honors the team with the best regular-season record.
Seattle holds the tiebreaker — wins — and therefore needs only two points over the two games, while the Galaxy needs at least four. That means the Sounders could claim the Shield on Sunday, while the Galaxy cannot.
“We’re playing away from home, and we have two chances to win the game,” Seattle captain Brad Evans said. “We can’t just throw everything forward in this first one and go for broke. It doesn’t make any sense. We also have playoffs to look at, we also want to get into a good rhythm going into the playoffs and be playing to zero in the back. So I think most importantly going away from home, we’ve got to stay sharp defensively and finish our chances when we get them.”
Seattle actually doesn’t need to win at all. Two draws would get the job done. But Schmid said there is little strategic relevance to that.
“We rarely play for a draw,” he said. “Maybe with 10 minutes to go we might play for a draw, depending on how a game runs in a certain scenario. But rarely do we play for a draw.”
Even with the bar set lower for the Sounders, the Shield is not expected to come easily.
Los Angeles has been the hotter team recently, losing only once in its past 11 games. Meanwhile, the Sounders have lost some of the early form that at one point rocketed them to a 10-point lead in the Supporters Shield race. Seattle is 2-3 in its past five matches, including a loss at home to Vancouver last weekend.
Los Angeles also has controlled the regular-season series with Seattle, leading 6-3-4 all-time and 3-1-2 at home.
In the lone previous meeting this season, the Galaxy beat the Sounders, 3-0, in Seattle.
“They came into our house and put a whooping on us,” Evans said. “We have to look at what they did well and what they’ve done over the course of a season.”
The Galaxy also could gain an emotional lift trying to send Landon Donovan out with a victory in what will be his last regular-season game before his home fans.
Donovan has six goals and 12 assists in the 12 games since he announced his plan to retire at the end of this season. He will leave MLS as the league’s career leader in goals (144) and assists (136).
“With (this) being his last game, and then you’ve got the Supporters Shield on top of that, I think it’s only going to add to it,” Seattle defender Chad Marshall said. “Both teams are going to come out with high intensity wanting to win. We know that if we can get a result down there the Supporters Shield is ours. We don’t want to save it to come back home, we’d rather do it down there. So I don’t know what to expect. It’s going to get crazy.”