Imitation, Competition and Flattery: Seattle Sounders vs. Los Angeles Galaxy

Monday your Seattle Sounders play the L.A. Galaxy in a curious rivalry game. The Galaxy are who the Sounders want to be. L.A. and Seattle share cultural cachet, fat coffers and big-name signings, but they differ in the records book. The Galaxy are one of the most decorated teams in MLS history with four MLS Cup championships and four Supporters’ Shields.

Los Angeles sets the trends. When they courted and signed David Beckham in 2007, MLS bent the rules, and eventually the “Beckham Rule” became standardized as the Designated Player. In 2008, the Galaxy signed the league’s first homegrown player, currently with Seattle, Tristan Bowen before that practice became commonplace. Recently, L.A. created their own directly affiliated USL Pro team, L.A. Galaxy II, essentially a minor league team allowing free movement between the two clubs. Though the name is more than unfortunate, LA Galaxy II represents the next evolutionary step for the premier, or seeking to be premier, MLS clubs. If you want to remain or become a big dog, the two NYs, Seattle, Toronto, etc., you’ll have a USL Pro affiliated team soon because imitation is the finest form of competition.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find it hard to hate the Galaxy. They lack the insufferable air of the Lakers or Cowboys (to name comparable league giants). Sure they are flashy and successful, but I love how they play the game. Robbie Keane trends a little smug, but he is so damn good as to command respect for him and his “cunning Irish mind.” (Many thanks to Sounders legend and wordsmith Alan Hinton for that gem, from the postgame of the 2012 Western Conference finals when Keane did-or-did-not intentionally kick the ball into Adam Johansson’s hand earning a key penalty. Cunning indeed.) Landon Donovan is, of course, superlative. He is totemic to U.S. soccer, almost like Thomas Jefferson in a kit. He isn’t haggard and star-crossed like Lincoln, or infallible like Washington; he is nerdy, polarizing and powerful. Hell, my opinion of Landycakes is no secret. Lastly, the development of Gyasi Zardes is impressive, and shows how L.A. doesn’t just rely on their wallet for roster improvement, but also commits to player development. Zardes, though raw at only 22, continues to prove himself an up-and-coming talent and is getting nurtured, not ignored, on a talented team that wants to win now.

The Sounders need to win Monday. Due to wonky MLS scheduling, our first matchup with L.A. comes halfway through the season, and it’s the last before back-to-back fixtures at the tail end of the schedule. It’s a big game as the Galaxy have games in hand and a solid points-per-game average (1.59), and are one of the few teams within striking distance of Seattle’s claiming the Supporters’ Shield before Labor Day. Monday’s six-point match is pivotal, the results of which could render those last two games superfluous or nail-biting. A loss on Monday could foreshadow an overly dramatic third act to the Sounders’ season.

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Fabio Pereira was waived yesterday. Having seen him only in action at Starfire against PSA Elite, I have little context to judge this decision from a player development standpoint. However, his release opens up not only a roster spot, but an international slot. This begs the question: who we are eyeballing as the transfer window draws to a close? What player would we bring in, risking team chemistry, to push us from championship contender to champion apparent? And what position does the front office feel is our weakest? Centerback, depth at center-mid, or…?

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Lastly, Llarian tweeted at me the semantic correction to my corporate tifo post. If you don’t follow Llarian on Twitter, do so and you’ll get jokes and insight from an Alliance Council member and ECS leader. A correction is in order. Tifo is definitively supporter-created and made to support a team. Thus the EA Sports banner from last Saturday’s friendly, though dressed in all the context of tifo: a large image displayed in the stands and unfurled by multiple fans right before kickoff, was inherently not tifo. So true, though the disingenuity of the tifo-esque advertisement was still galling.

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