LA Presses Seattle Out of the Playoffs

CARSON, CA - NOVEMBER 07: James Riley  and Tyrone Marshall  of Seattle Sounders FC win the ball from Landon Donovan  of the Los Angeles Galaxy, center, in the second half during the MLS Western Conference Semifinal match second leg at The Home Depot Center on November 7, 2010 in Carson, California. The Galaxy defeated Sounders FC 2-1. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

In the first Western Conference semifinal, FC Dallas imitated Inter Milan en route to an aggregate victory. Los Angeles, in their successful attempt to advance, mimicked Barcelona.

Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona strolls through opposition using short passes, extended possession, and the unrivaled talents of Lionel Messi. But it is their less heralded tactic – high pressing – that sets the stage for everything else.

1st Half

In Sunday’s Western Conference Semifinal second leg (LA won the first, 1-0), the Galaxy used Barcelona-style pressing to disrupt Seattle’s possession. The entire team was keen to pounce as soon as a Sounder in their area received a pass. Landon Donovan, David Beckham, and Mike Magee were particularly active.

Unlike Barcelona, Los Angeles uses a 4-4-2. Last night Seattle used a 4-4-2 as well, but the Galaxy’s diamond midfield and intense pressing eliminated the Sounders’ chances of providing their strikers with meaningful passes.

The overlapping defensive pressing of Beckham, Magee, Donovan, and Juninho hampered Seattle's midfield duo Alonso and Sturgis.

Galaxy manager Bruce Arena undoubtedly pictured LA’s pressure leading to turnovers and counterattacking goals. It certainly provided the former. Both LA goals, though, were courtesy of set pieces.

On each occasion, Seattle midfielder Sanna Nyassi was skinned by Landon Donovan, once for a corner and once for a free kick. David Beckham’s ensuing deliveries found a teammate’s head and then the back of the net (Edson Buddle, 19, and Omar Gonzalez, 27). The two goals would prove more than an adequate cushion for Seattle’s second half pressure.

2nd Half

Sigi Schmid, Seattle’s gaffer, didn’t switch formations until late in the match, but at the start of the second half he brought on Alvaro Fernandez to replace the overmatched Nyassi. Fernandez started brightly, single-handedly picking Donovan’s pocket in the 47th, but faded as LA resumed their pressing.

Seattle's 3-4-3 wasn't enough to equalize the aggregate score.

Eventually, with a comfortable aggregate lead of three goals, Arena’s squad allowed Seattle more time on the ball. The Galaxy were under strict orders to resume pressing whenever the visitors seemed to pick up steam. During one such sequence, Landon Donovan and David Beckham pushed forward to Seattle’s touchline. The two superstars seemed indefatigable – this particular pressure occurred in the 91st minute.

Seattle’s final substitutions led to a formation change and a slightly more open game. As with New York-San Jose, shifting to three at the back gave the underdogs extra attacking oomph. Unlike that Eastern Conference semifinal, Seattle needed more than one goal to advance. They did notch one tally and give themselves opportunities for more, but their best chances were shanked – Freddy Montero, 72 – or went inches wide – Osvaldo Alonso, 93.

What have you done for me lately?

Los Angeles imposed their will during both matches and will look to do the same in the Conference Final. Dallas possesses a more nuanced attack than Seattle – Saturday’s defense-fest notwithstanding – and Dallas’ 4-2-3-1/4-1-4-1 will give them a man advantage in midfield, creating a stern test for LA’s high octane pressure.

Mark your calendars, gringos. November, 14th, 8:00 EST.

One Comments Post a Comment
  1. Bradley's Receding Hairline says:

    That match has the potential to be a great one. Dallas should do a much better job dealing with the pressure than Seattle did.

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