Sounders and Galaxy get set for Supporters’ Shield shoot out

As the curtain comes down on another Major League Soccer regular and the focus begins to shift towards the postseason, there is the small matter of the 2014 Supporters’ Shield winners to be decided this weekend.

In a mouth-watering battle for the honour of topping the combined standings, the Seattle Sounders will play host to the LA Galaxy at CenturyLink Field on Saturday.

While the Sounders (19-10-4) and the Galaxy (17-6-10) sit level on 61 points at the top of the standings, it’s the former who are narrowly ahead going into the final round due to the fact that MLS uses wins as the first criteria to separate teams in the event of a tie.

 

The two sides met only last weekend when the Galaxy were the home side and raced into a 2-0 lead through Baggio Husidic and Marcelo Sarvas, but were pegged back by the Sounders who earned a point thanks to goals from Clint Dempsey and Lamar Neagle.

As well as squandering a strong position, the Galaxy also lost key central defender Omar Gonzalez who was sent off for the first time in his MLS career for two yellow cards.

The US international will sit out Saturday’s game and was far from happy with referee Ismail Elfath’s decision to dismiss him.

“I had a few days to think about it and look at the play again and from my standpoint, it wasn’t a yellow,” Gonzalez told the media after training on Wednesday.

“I think that I went to the ground because I thought that I was going to win the ball and I did get the ball first. He continued running and then tripped over me.”

MLS referees have come in for a lot of criticism this season, and Galaxy’s Robbie Rogers echoed Gonzalez’s sentiments about the performance of Elfath.

“As a defender, there are certain games where you can be more aggressive and when you have refs like this then you just don’t know. I mean my first tackle of the game was a yellow card,” said Rogers.

“There’s no soccer knowledge with these guys. They’re too emotional. I saw the referee get involved in an alternation with [Clint] Dempsey and I thought ‘this is your job, you have to be professional.’ I hate to be this harsh, but if I had a bad game then people would be the same.”

There is also the small matter of it being Landon Donovan’s last regular season game as a player and he will be as keen as anyone to add another MLS Cup to his trophy collection.

Donovan has been in sparkling form for most of the season and now holds the MLS records for most goals and assists, and at just 32 years of age there is no doubting that he has still the legs to play on for a few more years.

The decision to retire has been made though and the Galaxy are already setting themselves up for the future by putting faith in the exciting Gyasi Zardes.

The 23-year-old has enjoyed a breakthrough year, scoring 16 times in 31 games so far, and could very well be the heir to Donovan’s throne.

 

Another young player enjoying a strong season is Seattle full back DeAndre Yedlin, who will shortly make the move to Tottenham Hotspur.

For now though, the 21-year-old continues to be a key contributor to the Sounders and has been utilised in more attacking roles recently.

Against the Galaxy last week, he played deep for most of the game but, as the opposition tired, he was given more of a license to get forward and it was from his cross that Dempsey scored to reduce the arrears.

While both Zardes and Yedlin have bright futures ahead of them, it will be the performances of two deadly partnerships that decides the destination of the Supporters’ Shield.

Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, Robbie Keane and Donovan have scored a massive 61 goals between them so far and you wouldn’t bet against at least one of them coming up with the goods on Saturday.

Martins and Keane are two of the contenders for the MLS Most Valuable Player Award and it would be hard to argue against either of the former Premier League strikers for such recognition.

The last meeting between the two teams at CenturyLink Field took place back in July and it was the Galaxy who were comfortable 3-0 winners, however don’t expect this one to be quite so one-sided.

Sounders Galaxy stats

This article first appeared on the excellent bsports, who provide great statistical analysis. You can also find them on Twitter.

The Author

Neil Sherwin

Co-editor of BackPageFootball.com. Writes mostly on Premier League and A-League with contributions to other sites including TheFootballSack, InBedWithMaradona and Bloomberg's BSports. Has featured on The Guardian's Football Weekly.

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