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Sounders face new-look, slow-starting Galaxy

Defending champs, 1-2-2, coping without Donovan

Sounders defender Chad Marshall, left, knows the Galaxy love to catch opponents on the counter through forward Robbie Keane, right. (Associated Press)
Sounders defender Chad Marshall, left, knows the Galaxy love to catch opponents on the counter through forward Robbie Keane, right. (Associated Press)
Don Ruiz Tacoma News Tribune

Landon Donovan has retired, and the Los Angeles Galaxy are off to a 1-2-2 start – and nobody on either end of Interstate 5 seems to believe those facts are related.

“Actually, I think the season’s over,” L.A. coach Bruce Arena said. “I think we should fold the tent up and go home.”

Then, in case his sarcasm was lost on anyone, he added, “Why would anyone with half a brain even think after five games that anything’s been said and done?”

If it’s any consolation to Arena, it is safe to assume none of the Seattle Sounders believe that as they prepared for their first look at the defending MLS champion Galaxy, at 4 p.m. today in Carson, California.

“I know Bruce, and he’s not happy right now for sure,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “They’re a team that has a lot of pride. They’re the defending champions, and they just haven’t had a great run lately. They’re a team that’s going to come back home, they weren’t happy with their last outing, and they’re going to be motivated.”

Slow starts are nothing new for the Galaxy. They started 2-1-1 in 2011. Then 2-3 in 2012. Then 2-1-2 last season. And in each case, they went on to win the MLS Cup.

This season has started especially slowly. At 1-2-2, the Galaxy rests at the bottom of the Western Conference. They haven’t won since March 6. They haven’t scored since March 21.

And yet, since 2009, Los Angeles has the best record in MLS. They wear a crest topped with five championship stars. And these Sounders seem to put far more faith in the past six seasons than in the past six weeks – even without Donovan.

“They like to do the same things,” Seattle central defender Chad Marshall said. “They play good team defense: They’re kind of a swarming defense and then look to catch you on the counter with (Robbie) Keane and (Gyasi) Zardes. I don’t think they look to do too much different. They kind of start every season a little slow and then they get going. We don’t want to be the one that gets them going.”

Especially because the Galaxy have emerged as one of the Sounders’ top rivals, and their prime roadblock from an MLS Cup.

While Los Angeles has averaged a league-best 1.73 points per game since Seattle came into the league in 2009, the Sounders are right behind at 1.69. While the Sounders won the Supporters Shield last season, it was the Galaxy who knocked them out of the playoffs and went on to win the MLS Cup.

“Every season’s a new season, so you try to put last season behind you,” Marshall said. “But I’m sure some guys will be thinking about that as we go down there.”

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