Preview — Tomorrow night, LAFC will have another chance to prove themselves in a knockout match. With a rematch against the Seattle Sounders, who eliminated them en route to an MLS Cup last year, on the horizon. This Western Conference collision will be the highlight of the Round of 16, and we have your preview.
Round of 16 Preview: LAFC Have Second Chance at Silencing Sounders
This match doesn’t need much in the way of hype. Two of the Western Conference’s best clubs will face off in a knockout match for the second time in as many years. For Seattle, they want to show they are still a gatekeeper. With a new MLS Cup in the cabinet, they want nothing more than to win more silverware at Los Angeles’ expense.
However, for LAFC, this match carries a little more weight than a typical “exhibition tournament” would. Despite being the most talented side in the MLS for the better part of three years, LAFC have not fared well in knockout matches. From the disappointing RSL knockout in year one, to last year’s loss to what many felt was an inferior Sounders squad. While losing this match wouldn’t derail momentum for the 2020 MLS Cup, it would raise a lot of questions about this side in the big game.
Revenge is a Fool’s Game
Perhaps it’s a burnout from the narrative that most of last year’s matches produced. After all, 2019 was the self-proclaimed, Revenge Tour, for LAFC. However, this time around, revenge isn’t on the minds of the black and gold. Speaking to media ahead of tomorrow’s match, Mark-Anthony Kaye touched on that idea saying,”Revenge? Sure, people call it that. For me, it’s just an opportunity to win. If you think too much into revenge, sometimes you leave yourself open to harm.”
He’s not wrong. While fans and most storylines will highlight the revenge nature of tomorrow’s match, the truth is, this is a different year. LAFC has struggled, even going back to the brief start of the season in March. This is a team that, in reality, is looking to play their football. To play one match where they look and feel like the LAFC than broke countless records in 2019. Their goal isn’t revenge, but to get back to playing their football, and what better time to do it than a knockout match.
— LÁFC (@SomosLAFC) July 25, 2020
With all the talk about poor defensive play, and focus on the sluggish starts the midfield has gotten off too, one position not talked about much is goalkeeper. After the departure of Tyler Miller, it was presumed Pablo Sisniega would be given the number one shirt, after his impressive push the last few matches of 2019. However, when LAFC brought in veteran keeper, Kenneth Vermeer, it was a decision had yet to be made. Unfortunately, it looks as if it still hasn’t.
After Vermeer’s rough opener against Houston, Sisniega was named starter for the last two matches of group play. However, even that may once again change as head coach Bob Bradley mentioned to media. “We’re still discussing who will start against Seattle. I mentioned when we made the decision to start Pablo, we certainly brought Kenneth to our club with the idea he can be an important player for us.”
One of the last things you want heading into a knockout round, is questions surrounding your keeper position. It’s a bit like the old quarterback saying, if you have two you have none. Whether LAFC have a number one keeper on the roster, remains to be seen.
Prediction for LAFC vs. Seattle
This has been an awkward tournament for the black and gold. On one hand, they have struggled to impress, and have yet to look like the side that dominated most of 2019. However, on the other hand, this team has come into a sweltering Orlando bubble, in the middle of July, during a pandemic, without their best player, playing their worst football, and still went unbeaten through three matches. That is the mark of a truly great team, and one that will win 3-2 on Monday night.
“He plays as if he’s been playing at this level for over 15 years.”
— LAFC (@LAFC) July 26, 2020