Los Angeles Soccer: Michael Gspurning
There's been one huge showdown -- to open the 2010 playoffs, a two-game Galaxy sweep -- and one the towering presence of Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid, who is soccer royalty in these parts after winning championships at UCLA and with the Galaxy. He's the only man with more MLS regular-season wins (161) than L.A. boss Bruce Arena (131).
Best talent in MLS: Galaxy, right? Except Seattle might have more.
It's a great and growing rivalry, or so the Sounders and their fans would have you believe, and close to 40,000 will be on hand to lend the appropriate atmosphere for Wednesday night's showdown at CenturyLink Field.
“It's a big game for us,” Sounders goalkeeper Michael Gspurning told his team's website this week. “Especially because L.A. is the champion. Wednesday is a big test for us. Everybody is 100 percent motivated -- maybe even a bit more.”
The Galaxy (3-3-1) understand the importance, too -- big crowd, great opponent, possible six-point swing in the Western Conference's numbers count -- but do they consider the Sounders (4-1-1) to be a rival?
“I think we've developed a lot of rivalries in this league,” said midfielder Mike Magee. “I wouldn't say it's one of the bigger ones -- not to the level of us and Chivas [USA] -- but we've definitely had some heated matches. Felt at times they've had some choice words for our team. That's a hard place to play. When we go there, they definitely step up their level.”
Chivas is the big rival, taking over from the San Jose Earthquakes once it started competing for real in its second season, in 2006, but there are other games that elicit stronger feelings, owing if not to geography, then to a shared past. Or something else.
“I think every game we play in the league is a rivalry game ...,” Arena said. “What are you going to ask me on Thursday: 'Is [weekend opponent] New York a rival?' ”
Well, the Red Bulls are, sort of -- two biggest markets, all the Designated Players on both rosters, David Beckham and Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez's venom for Landon Donovan. It's a newer one, perhaps, falling into line after the Clasico with hated Chivas, the California Clasico with the Quakes (dismissingly called “Smurfs” by L.A. faithful) and perhaps stepping in front of the old rivalry with D.C. United, forged through two title-game meetings in MLS's the first four seasons.
“I don't buy into any of it,” Arena said. “I do think Chivas -- a team in the same facility, in the same community ... to me, we'd have a hard time arguing whether that's [not] a rivalry. All the others? They're all to different degrees rivalries. I think every club in the league, it's a rival.”
The Galaxy have a new midfielder, is he's to be believed.
Marcelo Sarvas, whom the Galaxy battled twice this year in CONCACAF Champions League play, has signed a two-year contract with two option years, his agent told Costa Rican sports website Al Pie del Deporte.
Sarvas, who plays for reigning Costa Rican champion Alajuelense, last week told Costa Rican daily La Nacion that he was weighing a two-year deal from the Galaxy against a three-year offer to stay at Alajuela and that he was “postponing [a decision] as long as possible because the truth is that I don't know what decision to make. The economics [of the Galaxy offer] is very good.”
A Galaxy spokesman said the club, as is its policy in such matters, would have no comment.
Sarvas, 30, is from Sao Paulo, began his pro career with Corinthians and played for clubs in Sweden and Poland before signing with Alajuela last January. He is preparing for Liga's Invierno (fall) title series against Herediano, although he is suspended for Sunday's first leg.
The Galaxy, which this season won the MLS Cup/Supporters' Shield double in Major League Soccer and advanced to next year's Champions League knockout stage, arrived home Wednesday morning from a 12-day, three-game postseason tour to Indonesia, the Philippines and Australia.
The players will be off, national team considerations aside, until probably the third week of January, but head coach/general manager Bruce Arena and his staff has pressing work to do determining his roster for next season.
The pivotal decision is David Beckham's, and everything the Galaxy must accomplish this offseason will be determined by his choice. The English superstar, who five-year contract ends at the close of December, could re-sign with the Galaxy, accept Paris Saint-Germain's millions or, far less likely, return home to England.