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Seattle still finds LA to be its measuring stick
By TIM BOOTH
TUKWILA, Wash. (AP) The standings mean nothing to this rivalry.
The Sounders see the Los Angeles Galaxy as the side they measure themselves against and that won't change until Seattle finally gets the upper hand on its rival from Southern California.
"The Galaxy and ourselves have been the teams over the last three regular seasons that have had the best records when you combine it all together," Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. "So we always want to be among the quality teams. I think we're there, but now it's taking that next step."
The Sounders and Galaxy play Wednesday night in Seattle in the first of three matchups between the Western Conference foes this season.
Considering their star-laden roster, the Galaxy are one of the great disappointments so far in the 2012 season. With David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Edson Buddle and Robbie Keane in the lineup, Los Angeles has managed just 10 points through seven games. But if any team understands trying to overcome a slow start, it's the Sounders, who scuffled through the first two months of last season before nearly catching Los Angeles for the Supporters' Shield by the end of the season.
"It's not necessarily how you start, it's how you finish," Seattle midfielder Brad Evans said. "I think the bottom line here is these are three points that we really want. We've given up some points to them in the past and I can guarantee we'll be fired up Wednesday night."
While Los Angeles has yet to meet the massive preseason expectations that accompanied its lineup, Seattle's 2-1 win at Chicago last Saturday improved the Sounders' mark to 4-1-1 with 13 points in six league matches. Seattle has played the fewest games of any team in the Western Conference, but that's about to change.
The match at Chicago was the start of a run of five league games in 15 days. By the end of May, Seattle will have played seven MLS games and will be back on par with the rest of the league. After playing the Galaxy on Wednesday, Seattle will host Philadelphia on Saturday. Schmid said balancing playing time with three games in a week will be done on an individual basis.
"We have so many things at our disposal now that we have a good read on where guys are physically and how they are recovering," Schmid said. "You factor in that this Wednesday game we're playing is against L.A. and we're going into it with the same rest as they are. The weekend game is a little different situation, you factor in guys who haven't played for a while ... you look at all those factors together and make a decision."
Including the playoffs, Seattle is 0-5-1 in its last six league matches against the Galaxy and has yet to beat Los Angeles in Seattle. The only area the Sounders have found success against Los Angeles has been in the U.S. Open Cup, where Seattle's won three straight titles.
It was believed there could be a bigger story brewing from the Los Angeles side. Last week Great Britain Olympic soccer coach Stuart Pearce said he would be in Seattle to watch Beckham to determine if Beckham will be included on the Olympic roster.
But the Galaxy confirmed late Tuesday night that Beckham did not make the trip to Seattle and remained in Los Angeles to rest. Beckham played 90 minutes last Saturday against Dallas, and the fact Seattle has an artificial surface raised the possibility that Beckham wouldn't play.
Pearce is also not expected to be at Wednesday's game according to the Galaxy. Beckham is hoping to be included as one of three players older than 23 who could be added to Great Britain's roster for the Olympics.
"David Beckham will be treated exactly the same as any other individual, whether it is young or over-age," Pearce said last week. "Form and fitness will dictate what the makeup of the squad will be. David falls into the same category. I have a duty of care to the Great Britain squad to try and win a gold medal. I will pick the strongest possible squad I can."
Follow Tim Booth on Twitter: http://twitter.com/ByTimBooth
Updated May 2, 2012