While most rivalry talk for Sounders FC is centered in the Pacific Northwest, with Portland and Vancouver joining the league, some Sounders think the competition with L.A. is also worth noting heading into Tuesday's season opener.
TUKWILA — Sounders FC crowds at Qwest Field are internationally renowned. The passion and loyalty of 36,000 cheering fans at every game set the standard of MLS support, but one league team has found a way to quiet Seattle down.
The Los Angeles Galaxy.
“In the past when we’ve played there, it’s been relatively quiet because we’ve taken the crowd out of the game,” Galaxy star Landon Donovan told the L.A. Daily News.
Don’t blame the fans if the atmosphere has been a little muted.
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Sounders FC lost all four league games against the Galaxy last season by a combined 10-2 score. That includes two season-ending losses in the Western Conference semifinals and a 4-0 home drubbing in April that was so bad, the Sounders front office issued one-game rebates toward 2011 season-ticket packages.
And while most rivalry talk in Seattle is centered in the Pacific Northwest, with Portland and Vancouver joining the league, some Sounders think the competition with L.A. is also worth noting heading into Tuesday’s season opener.
“It’s a big one,” said defender Jeff Parke about a rivalry with the Galaxy. “Obviously, they knocked us out of the playoffs and beat up on us during the season.”
Added coach Sigi Schmid: “It’s definitely something that is a (rivalry) in the sense that we played them as often as anybody last year and we came out on the short end. It’s definitely a team that motivates our group of players, and they want to do well against a team like them.”
Los Angeles won the Supporters’ Shield last season for having the best record in MLS and boasts a pair of A-list stars in Donovan and David Beckham. The Galaxy also has a revamped front line, replacing the departed Edson Buddle with Juan Pablo Angel, one of the league’s all-time top scorers, and Chad Barrett, a physical 25-year-old acquired from Toronto FC.
Amid those new pieces, Donovan remains the focus, said Schmid.
“When you start with Landon Donovan, you’re a good team,” Schmid said. “(If he’s) not the most influential player in the league, I’d be hard-pressed to name another.”
Sounders FC defender Leo Gonzalez said he wasn’t too concerned about last year’s struggles against the Galaxy. Each game and each season is different, and he doesn’t think past results will necessarily carry over to 2011.
“They’re a strong team and a big team in the MLS, but we have to focus on what we can do,” said Gonzalez through a translator.
Midfielder Steve Zakuani views the season opener as a measuring stick for Sounders FC amid its own high expectations — a chance to “really see where this team stands.”
“L.A., last year they beat us because of their experience,” Zakuani said. “That (playoff series) maybe came a year too soon for some of us. I think with a year under our belt, more maturity, more chemistry, we should do better and if we don’t, we’ll hold our hands up and take the criticism.”
• Zakuani (adductor) and Brad Evans (hamstring) each trained lightly Saturday. Their status for Tuesday’s game will be based on how they recover and feel Sunday.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org