BY Stanley Holmes 02:13PM 12/20/2010

Sounders, Galaxy: Re-match in opener

For the third consecutive year, Sounders will host the MLS opener, this time against the team that ousted them from the playoffs

Galaxy wing David Beckham during the Western Conference semifinals against the Seattle Sounders on Halloween night at Qwest Field in 2010. (Drew Sellers/Sports Press Northwest)

The rematch is quicker than anyone thought. The first kick is going to be Seattle against LA.

Major League Soccer will kick off the 2011 season in Seattle for the third consecutive year and threw in Western Conference rival the L.A. Galaxy just to make it interesting, as well as help reverse slumping TV ratings with the league’s most glittering team pitted against the league’s most rabid supporters.

David Beckham, Landon Donovan Edson Buddle, Juninho and now probably Juan Pablo Angel will be back wearing the Los Angeles shirt. They no doubt will be looking forward to silencing the loudest stadium in the MLS.

The league announced Monday that Sounders and the Galaxy will clash for the First Kick March 15  at Qwest Field. The 6:30 p.m. will be nationally televised by ESPN.

“We are honored to host the first match of the MLS season for the third year in a row,” said Sounders FC owner Joe Roth.  “It is a true tribute to the Sounders FC fans who have created a passionate and exciting atmosphere unlike any in the league.”

Last season Sounders FC set a new league attendance record, averaging 36,173. Seattle has attracted 32 consecutive capacity crowds in MLS play.

The Sounders will start their campaign against the one team that thoroughly dominated them, 0-4, in the regular season and playoffs. The Sounders did prevail against the Galaxy in a U.S. Open Cup match of mostly reserve players. The Galaxy, holders of the 2010 Supporters Shield, won the Western Conference with the best record in MLS.

Though the Galaxy may not have been Seattle’s first choice for its home opener, the Rave Green have been perfect on opening night. In its inaugural match in 2009, Seattle defeated the New York Red Bulls, 3-0. In First Kick 2010, it beat Philadelphia Union, 2-0.

If there is any trepidation among players and coaches upon hearing the news, coach Sigi Schmid made it clear he relishes the confrontation with the star-studded ensemble.

“Our team looks forward to playing the two division champions, Los Angeles and New York, in our first two games,” said Schmid. “It’s a difficult task but we relish the opportunity.”

Seattle’s Cascadia Cup rivals kick off their first MLS matches on March 19. Vancouver Whitecaps travel to Toronto FC and the Portland Timbers travel to MLS Cup champions Colorado Rapids. Timbers first home match at the newly renovated PGE Park is April 14 against Chicago Fire.

Sporting Kansas City will host its first home match in its new soccer-specific stadium on June. 9.

Here’s the rundown for the home openers and the first two weeks of MLS play. The MLS has yet to release the rest of the season schedule:

Tuesday, March 15
Seattle Sounders FC vs. LA Galaxy, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN, ESPN Deportes, ESPN3.com)

Saturday, March 19
Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Toronto FC, time TBD
D.C. United vs. Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m.
New York Red Bulls vs. Seattle Sounders FC, 7:30 p.m.
FC Dallas vs. Chicago Fire, 8:30 p.m.
Houston Dynamo vs. Philadelphia Union, 8:30 p.m.
Colorado Rapids vs. Portland Timbers, 9 p.m.
Chivas USA vs. Sporting Kansas City, 10:30 p.m.
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Real Salt Lake, 10:30 p.m.

Sunday, March 20
LA Galaxy vs. New England Revolution, 8 p.m.

Saturday, March 26
Chicago Fire vs. Sporting Kansas City, 4 p.m.
Columbus Crew vs. New York Red Bulls, 4 p.m.
Philadelphia Union vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 4 p.m.
Toronto FC vs. Portland Timbers, time TBD
New England Revolution vs. D.C. United, time TBD
Real Salt Lake vs. LA Galaxy, 9 p.m.

Thursday, April 14
Portland Timbers vs. Chicago Fire, 11 p.m.

Thursday, June 9
Sporting Kansas City vs. Chicago Fire, time TBD


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