The highest-scoring team in the Western Conference broke from a puzzling goal drought and is now in position to take its first concrete step toward defending its MLS Cup title.
The Los Angeles Galaxy can clinch a playoff berth Sunday night in Seattle, and in doing so can sweep the season series with the Sounders.
A tie could also clinch, but that would require help elsewhere.
"You always want it in your own hands," defender A.J. DeLaGarza told the club’s official website. "You never want to leave it up to another team to lose or tie. We win and we’re in the playoffs."
Los Angeles (14-9-8) had gone three straight matches and 279 minutes without scoring before last Sunday’s 3-2 home win over Dallas. The Galaxy still have a two-match and 204-minute drought on the road, and that follows a season of inconsistent away scoring.
Bruce Arena’s club leads MLS with 39 goals in 16 home matches, but it’s managed 13 in 15 away, which entered the weekend tied for 14th – though the coach doesn’t sound concerned.
"It’s soccer. If you haven’t noticed, it’s a low-scoring sport," Arena said. "There are going to be games where you don’t score. Somehow we’ve kept our heads above water, and hopefully we can do that again in Seattle."
The scoring against Dallas came from probably the Galaxy’s three biggest names: Giovani Dos Santos, Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard.
Dos Santos has three goals in seven league matches, which began with a goal in a 3-1 win over Seattle (14-13-4) on Aug. 9. Keane and Gyasi Zardes also scored, giving Keane eight goals in his last 10 matches in the series.
Since the start of last year, the clubs have seen plenty of each other with the Galaxy going 4-2-1, including a split in the Western final.
The away scoring could come easier for Los Angeles if Seattle is without defender Chad Marshall, who is expected to miss the match with a sprained neck.
Seattle enters on a season-best five-match unbeaten streak after earning a 1-1 draw in Kansas City last Sunday. The Sounders haven’t given up more than a goal in any of those matches, just earned five points on a three-match away stretch and return to Seattle with a shot at a season-best four-game home winning streak.
"It’s a result on the road, but I think we’re all a bit disappointed because we put in a really good first half and had our chance to put them away in the second half, probably," goalkeeper Stefan Frei told the club’s official website.
"Good effort. I think a better effort for us, and so that’s why we’re a bit disappointed with just one point. But still, keeps the train rolling, keeps the points coming in, and we have to focus on the next one."
Obafemi Martins has scored in five straight matches to tie the franchise record and has eight goals in his last eight games. In 18 matches, he’s failed to score six times, though one of those was his only game this year against Los Angeles. He remains without a goal in eight career games in the series, while attacking partner Clint Dempsey has three in six matches against the Galaxy since returning to MLS.
A season after winning the Supporters’ Shield, Seattle is four points back of Los Angeles. Each club has three games remaining, so Seattle needs a win to remain a realistic candidate for the trophy.