Sounders hope to continue reversal of Galaxy's dominance in conference final
After mostly falling short against the Galaxy from 2009 to 2011, the Sounders are 2-1 against L.A. this year and hope to carry that momentum into Sunday's opener of the Western Conference final.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Sounders FC @ L.A. Galaxy, 6 p.m., ESPN
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SANDY, Utah — With just two days of rest before the start of the Western Conference final, the Sounders figure to rely heavily on adrenaline heading into Sunday's first leg of the two-game series.
But their opponent, the defending MLS Cup champion Los Angeles Galaxy, is doing its part to add to Seattle's drive, starting with a faux pas by its communications department.
"L.A. thought they were playing Salt Lake," coach Sigi Schmid said after Thursday's playoff series win against RSL. "They put out a news release and said they were playing Salt Lake, so we hate to disappoint them. That's motivation enough for us right now."
Galaxy midfielder Mike Magee might have also added fuel to the fire heading into the series opener at The Home Depot Center.
"(The Sounders) have judged themselves based on their successes and failures against us," he told LAGalaxy.com. "This is their MLS Cup."
L.A. dominated the series from 2009 to 2011, going 5-1-2 against Seattle, including a decisive 3-1 aggregate-goal series win in the 2010 Western Conference semifinals.
But this season, Seattle began to reverse that one-sided rivalry.
The Sounders won two of three meetings, including a 2-0 win and a 4-0 win at CenturyLink Field. The Galaxy won, 1-0, in the regular-season finale two weeks ago in Los Angeles, which prevented the Sounders from clinching the No. 2 seed in the West going into the playoffs.
This isn't the same Sounders team anymore, however, as evidenced by its first playoff series win. Schmid said advancing was "very important psychologically, and allows us to continue to grow and build as a club."
As well as being more confident, goalkeeper Michael Gspurning said he expects the team to be more relaxed Sunday without the pressure to finally win in the playoffs.
Added forward Fredy Montero, who has assists on two of Sounders FC's four playoffs goals all-time: "We have never had this chance before, to play in the finals of the conference.
"We are very excited to play against the Galaxy, and we are hungry to get to the final. Hopefully we have a good game in L.A. and then hopefully we will have the chance to finish it in Seattle."
Burch apologizes for gay slur
Sounders FC defender Marc Burch was shown directing a gay slur to RSL midfielder Will Johnson on the broadcast of Thursday's playoff game. He issued a statement of apology Friday through the team:
"I apologize for my horrific choice of words last night during our match. This is something that is inconsistent with my family values and because of that I am both disappointed and embarrassed by my level of poor judgment. I take seriously my role as a leader in the community and this is completely regrettable and unacceptable.Character matters and I hope through hard work on and off the field to begin earning your respect and trust again."
Potential discipline will be decided upon by MLS. Houston's Colin Clark was suspended three games for a similar use of a gay slur directed at a ball boy in a March game against the Sounders at CenturyLink Field. Clark was also fined and assigned sensitivity training.
If Burch is suspended, Seattle could be short-handed at left back with Leo Gonzalez recovering from a hamstring strain.
• Schmid said Sunday's game might be too early for midfielder Mauro Rosales to return from a hamstring-related injury, but the team captain should be able to play in the second leg at home on Nov. 18.
• Brad Evans, Jeff Parke and Osvaldo Alonso all face suspension for the second leg in the series if they receive a yellow card Sunday. David Beckham and Omar Gonzalez of the Galaxy are in the same position.
• The Sounders returned to Seattle on Friday and will charter a plane to and from L.A. this weekend.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @joshuamayers.