Rosales is the Sounders' offensive catalyst.
They were headed in opposite directions when they met here three months ago, and Sounders FC's 2-0 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy--Seattle's first win over L.A. in Major League Soccer play since August 2009--put an exclamation point on the difference in the teams' respective fortunes.
Rosales is the Sounders' offensive catalyst.
Sunday's rematch at CenturyLink Field (6 p.m., ESPN2), figures to be a much stiffer test for the Sounders, facing a resurgent Galaxy team that has gone 7-2-1 in its past 10 league matches in June and July and is unbeaten in its past five (4-0-1), four of them on the road. Seattle also is unbeaten in its past five MLS contests (2-0-3), dating back to the final day of June.
The Galaxy's loss here at the beginning of May dropped the defending MLS champions to last place in the West, but L.A. has clawed back to fifth in the nine-team conference, just one point behind Seattle, which is tied for third with Vancouver.
L.A.'s run has been fueled by offense; the Galaxy have averaged 2.4 goals per match over the past 10. Landon Donovan has led the way with seven goals, with Robbie Keane not far behind with five. David Beckham has four, and Mike Magee three, including the game-winner in last Saturday's 1-0 win at FC Dallas. Beckham and Keane did not travel here in May, while Magee came on as a second-half substitute and played a half-hour.
Sounders fans who want to do their part to help the environment will get a chance on Sunday: Honest Tea is sponsoring "The Great Recycle"--featuring a 30-foot-tall recycling bin--starting at 4 p.m. outside CenturyLink Field.
Fans who drop off empty bottles and cans to be recycled will get some cool swag in return: 1 bottle recycled earns a cold bottle of Honest Tea; 5 or more bottles earns a free T-shirt, sunglasses, or a reusable bag; and 200 or more bottles earns a gift certificate for a mountain bike (while supplies last).
The Galaxy's top keeper, Josh Saunders, who missed May's match in Seattle after entering Major League Soccer's substance abuse and behavioral heath program, is back between the pipes and has started the past 10 matches, playing every minute, stopping 36 of 50 shots, and registering four shutouts. The back four in front of Saunders has also received an upgrade, with the recent return of 6-foot-5 central defender Omar Gonzalez, last season's MLS Defender of the Year, from a torn ACL he suffered in January.
The Sounders' shutout of the Galaxy came at a cost, as starting keeper Michael Gspurning left after the first half with a hip injury. Gspurning, relieved by Bryan Meredith against L.A., sat out the next 13 matches before returning last Saturday and making three saves in Seattle's 2-1 win at Colorado.
Seattle has shaken up its midfield over the past week, trading Alvaro Fernandez to the Chicago Fire and signing two other international players--30-year-old Christian Tiffert, who spent the past two seasons with Kaiserslautern of the German Bundesliga, and Mario Martinez, currently playing for Honduras in the Olympics, who turned 23 this past Monday. Neither will join the Sounders until their P-1 visas have been approved.
One midfielder whose place is secure is Mauro Rosales, who leads the Seattle with seven assists and has five in his past seven matches, including one against Colorado last week.
Eddie Johnson, who scored the first goal against L.A. in May on a perfectly struck cross from Rosales, has emerged as the Sounders' top offensive threat, with nine goals, one-third of the team's total. Johnson, who scored the game-winning goal against Chelsea in last week's MLS All-Star Game, has six goals in his past eight matches.
Fredy Montero, who scored the second goal against the Galaxy, a thunderous strike from 35 yards out (video below), has scored five goals this season and set up four more. Montero, Seattle's leading scorer the past three seasons, has ceded that role to Johnson.
The teams are coming off two very different matches. The Sounders opened CONCACAF Champions League play last night at home with a 3-1 win over Caribbean champions AIA Caledonia from Trinidad & Tobago before a sparse crowd of 7,767. Rookie midfielder Andy Rose scored one goal and assisted on the other two, by Montero and Sammy Ochoa.
At the same time in Carson, Calif., the Galaxy took on one of the world's top clubs, Real Madrid, in the first of a four-match exhibition tour before a Home Depot Center record crowd of 30,317. The visitors, who won Spain's Primera Liga for a record 32nd time last season--scoring an incredible 121 goals in 38 matches--and advanced to the Champions League semifinals, scored just 85 seconds in and never let up, humbling the Galaxy 5-1.