Sounders vs. L.A. Galaxy

Entering season three, just making the playoffs is no longer enough for Sounders FC and its rabid fan base. As keeper Kasey Keller's stellar 21-year career comes to an end, only a strong postseason run will do. A first step toward exorcising recent demons comes tonight—as Major League Soccer opens its season here for the second straight year—against the Los Angeles Galaxy, which bounced Seattle in the playoffs last fall. L.A. owned the Sounders in 2010, dominating both regular-season matches and that home-and-home series, and outscoring Seattle 10-2. The Galaxy has the league's best (World Cup hero  Landon Donovan) and best-known (fashion plate David Beckham) players, but will miss Edson Buddle's 19 goals, eight of them game-winners; he's playing in Germany. At 41, Keller isn't quite what he used to be between the pipes, but will keep this team in most matches. A key for coach Sigi Schmid is finding the right combination up front: Fredy Montero, with 22 goals in two seasons, and target man Blaise Nkufo are a potent one-two punch. Backups Michael Fucito and Nate Jaqua  are battling injuries, opening the door for Jamaican international   O'Brian White, a talented newcomer. Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, and Erik Friberg should make center midfield a strength; Álvaro Fernández is poised for a breakout season on the wing. MICHAEL MAHONEY

Tue., March 15, 6:30 p.m., 2011

 
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