In 2014, Seattle and L.A. were the unchallenged big dogs of the league, splitting up the spoils of the U.S. Open Cup, Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup between them. A year later, they enter the postseason as the fourth and fifth seed in the Western Conference, respectively.

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The Sounders vs. the Los Angeles Galaxy in the postseason, same as it ever was.

Wednesday night’s one-game playoff at CenturyLink Field will mark the fourth time in seven years that the clubs have faced off in the postseason, with the Sounders looking for their first series victory over the defending MLS Cup champs.

“It’s the games that we’ve had,” Sounders forward Chad Barrett said of the rivalry’s allure, “the battles that we’ve fought, the intensity we play the games with. They have their three (Designated Players), and we have our three DPs. They have great depth, and we have great depth. It’s Sigi (Schmid) vs. Bruce (Arena). Every player on the field has an intense matchup.”

Yet for the familiarity of the foes and significant amount of carry-over from last season, these are two very different teams from the ones that swaggered into last year’s Western Conference finals.

In 2014, Seattle and L.A. were the unchallenged big dogs of the league, splitting up the spoils of the U.S. Open Cup, Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup between them. A year later, they enter the postseason as the fourth and fifth seed in the Western Conference, respectively.

The Galaxy has struggled to integrate its big-name midseason signings while maintaining its usual attacking fluidity.

Landon Donovan was always going to be tough to replace, but the addition of Sebastian Lletget and Giovani Dos Santos and continued development of Gyasi Zardes suggest attacking firepower isn’t the problem.

Rather, the biggest issue seems to be that Steven Gerrard isn’t Marcelo Sarvas — counterintuitive as that might sound, given all the hype surrounding Gerrard’s arrival from Liverpool.

Sarvas, last seen unhappily stalking around the Colorado Rapids midfield, was the understated glue guy that held the team together. Teammates and opponents alike speak of his tireless stamina, and Sarvas’ ability to both shield the back line and create for attackers is akin to Osvaldo Alonso’s.

“In the three or so years he’s been in the league, every match against him has been a battle,” Seattle midfielder Andy Rose said of Sarvas, who was traded to Colorado for a higher allocation ranking in January.

Rose referenced Sarvas’ goal in Colorado’s upset of Kansas City last week as emblematic of his style. With the Rapids down a man and Sporting pushing for a late tying goal, Sarvas capped a counterattack that started way back in his own box with a full-sprint run and finish.

“That’s what he’s all about — always willing to work,” Rose said.

Gerrard, at this point in his career, simply cannot cover the same ground as Sarvas, nor is he as comfortable as a defensive shield. Juninho hasn’t been able to establish the same kind of midfield chemistry with Gerrard that he had with Sarvas. L.A. has looked uncharacteristically doughy up the middle — see: Portland’s 5-2 rout at the StubHub Center just last weekend.

With the standard warnings about never writing off Arena’s Galaxy, and that late-season form can be overrated, L.A. enters the playoffs 1-4-2 in its final seven matches.

“They brought in players just like we did,” Schmid said. “It takes time for those guys to get to know each other. … They obviously have a talented group and a good group.”

Seattle’s midseason signings are also still working their way into the fold. Andreas Ivanschitz was injured throughout his first month in Seattle, Nelson Valdez is dealing with a nagging calf issue, and Erik Friberg has also missed time.

“All of us are limited salary-cap wise,” Schmid said. “ … Once you get beyond the three DPs, everybody is working off the same budget for the other 17 guys. Everybody is pretty equal. There’s no David vs. Goliath.”

Most ominously for the Sounders, Alonso is a question mark for the third consecutive postseason after gingerly walking off during Seattle’s 3-1 victory over Real Salt Lake.

Sounders and Galaxy, same as it ever was — only this time, they face off in the relative anonymity of the midweek play-in round, and one of them will get bounced from the postseason before it even reaches the conference semifinal round.