Here Come the Sounders!
LAFC Hosts Seattle at the Banc in MLS Conference Finals
October 24, 2019
Here come the Sounders! In the aftermath of Los Angeles Football Club's historic playoff win over crosstown rival L.A. Galaxy, the Black and Gold will entertain the Seattle Sounders for the MLS Western Conference Finals tomorrow night, October 29, 7:00 p.m. at the Banc of California Stadium.
The rewarding and emotional 5-3 victory over the Galaxy last Thursday was billed as the most anticipated match in MLS history. It lived up to the hype and more as LAFC finally beat the Galaxy for the very first time in six attempts in the derby now forever known as El Traffico. For LAFC fans led by The 3252 Supporters Union, the match will live forever. The script was right out of Hollywood. Only better.
"We take a lot of good things out of tonight: a proud feeling of how we keep moving ourselves along, and yet when you talk to everybody inside, they're all focused already on the next game," said LAFC head coach Bob Bradley following the Western Conference Semifinals win. "You can tell that this was just an important win, but now we've got to move on. Seattle is a good team."
While many felt like the win was going to be LAFC's greatest test during the 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs, that premise is not accurate at all. The Galaxy were very inconsistent throughout the entire season and basically relied on the services of one player to keep things interesting. The Seattle Sounders are a completely different beast according to Bradley:
"This year Seattle was a much better team than the Galaxy, more solid in every way. And now that they've had two playoff games, the confidence that they have and the belief that they have is very strong. So this is a tough test to get to a Final. We never ever underestimate any of our opponents."
"We've not played them in so long. We've played them back-to-back with the way the schedule works sometimes and that was a long time ago. They've grown as a team. (Raul) Ruidiaz (Sounders forward) hasn't played against us so far. I'm sure they've got all sorts of things to talk about to give confidence on their end."
The Sounders a special place within LAFC's short history. LAFC won its inaugural MLS match, 1-0, on March 4, 2018 at Seattle. Six matches later they christened the Banc of California Stadium's inaugural match with another 1-0 victory over the Sounders. Earlier season the clubs played back-to-back matches with LAFC winning 4-1 at home before playing to a 1-1 draw one week later in Seattle.
The 2nd-seeded Sounders beat FC Dallas 4-3 at home in Round 1 of the playoffs on October 19 at CenterLink Field. They took care of Real Salt Lake four days later, 2-0, again at home. The Sounders finished in second place in the Western Conference this season with 56 points, 16 fewer than LAFC who set the league's team scoring record this season with 72 points.
Seattle has seven wins, two losses and one draw in their last 10 results. In comparison, LAFC has only four wins, one loss and five draws in their last 10 games. Seattle has won its last four matches while LAFC have taken their last two. However, the Sounders were 5-8-4 on the road this season. LAFC had the best home (13-1-3) and road (8-3-6) records in the league and has homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Sounders started with a 4-2-3-1 formation in the win over Real Salt Lake. Their starting lineup – Defenders: Brad Smith, Kelvin Leerdam, Kim Kee-hee and Román Torres; Midfielders: Cristian Roldan, Gustav Svensson, Joevin Jones, Jordan Morris and Nicolás Lodeiro with Raúl Ruidíaz at forward. Xavier Arreaga substituted for Torres, Victor Rodriguez for Jones and Jordy Delem replaced Morris. Stefan Frei was the goalkeeper.
Against the Galaxy, LAFC started defenders Eddie Segura, Jordan Harvey, Steven Beitashour and Tristan Blackmon; Midfielders: Eduard Atuesta, Latif Blessing and Lee Nguyen. Forwards: Brian Rodriguez, Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi. Tyler Miller was the goalkeeper.
The Sounders have a balanced scoring attack. Ruidiaz led the team with 11 goals for the season. He had the opening goal in last Wednesday's win over Dallas. Jordan Morris had 10 goals and 7 assists this year and was the difference in the Dallas win, recording a hat-trick. Nicolas Lodeiro had seven goals and 12 assists during the season and scored Seattle's insurance goal in the Semifinals win over Salt Lake.
"Lodeiro is the heart and soul of that team. Important. Captain. Puts so much into it. So, we know when we step onto the field we've got to do a good job to make it difficult for Lodeiro and others because other than that, they're the kind of guys that can win games," said Bradley in his assessment of the Sounders.
"Jordan Morris is in really good form. His understanding with Ruidiaz is very good. Ruidiaz likes to move around. Jordan has a good way from outside to come in and be on the move going forward."
"Lodeiro is somebody who is going to go to find the ball. So our ability can never have one person responsible for Lodeiro because he's all over the field. You've got to have good recognition of where he is and how to try to take away certain things from him."
"Their outside backs are constantly on the move going forward. They've added, in addition to coming forward out wide, that in certain moments when the attacker's wide they come inside and go through them. So they've done a good job adding some different ideas with their outside backs."
Bradley, winner of the 2019 MLS Coach of the Year Award had a few words about LAFC captain Carlos Vela, soon to be named league MVP: "It's been amazing and I like watching it every day. I'm not going to talk about history. I leave that for other people. I just know that when he shows up every day, the smile on his face means the rest of us smile."
"The football and training. In addition to what you see in games he's had some incredible moments in training. He scored a goal a couple of weeks ago... At some point after the season, maybe somebody will leak it online. But he scored a goal in training one day that had us all going crazy. That's a part of it that keeps us moving."