Preview — The Seattle Sounders have been here before — in more ways than one. The Sounders are in the hunt for a third MLS Cup trophy and that journey starts tonight. This isn’t new territory for the club. In every single season of the Sounders’ existence, the team has made the MLS Cup Playoffs, with that streak expanding to 12 seasons.
Once again, this isn’t new territory, and neither is the competition.
Ever since Los Angeles FC entered MLS, they’ve been pitted against the Sounders. Go back to 2018, LAFC’s first season in the league. While the two sides didn’t meet up in the playoffs, LAFC and Seattle faced off in the California-club’s first game in the league. LAFC got the best of the Sounders twice in 2018.
Then, in 2019, the tables began to turn. In their first meeting of the season, LAFC took the win. It was only a few short weeks later when they met up again, with the teams splitting the points in a 1-1 draw. When it mattered most, Seattle finally leap over the mountain and grabbed the ever-important Western Conference Final win over LAFC on Oct. 29.
Who can forget when asked how he was feeling, Brian Schmetzer said he “feels better than Bob?”
Once again, the rivalry is renewed. This isn’t as much as a geographic rivalry like the Cascadia rivals that Seattle faces off again. This is a rivalry based on two elite teams, pushing for the chance to make it to the coveted championship game. Seattle has been there in three of the last four seasons. LAFC is still pushing for their first trip.
But, as both teams will say, they’re taking it one game at a time.
COVID-19 positive test for the Sounders, missing players for LAFC
The Seattle Sounders announced on Monday night that a member of their first-team squad had tested positive for COVID-19. However, according to the club, that individual had not been in “close contact of other members of Seattle’s roster or technical staff.”
Seattle is already missing Xavier Arreaga, who was gone on international duty with Ecuador last week. During that international break, Arreaga scored his first international goal for Ecuador over Colombia, too.
Raul Ruidiaz was on international duty, too. However, during his last trip back to Peru, he tested positive for COVID-19, making him the individual in question very much in doubt. Furthermore, Gustav Svensson was part of the Swedish national team on international duty back on Nov. 12.
Either way, the Sounders have some numbers ahead of their counterparts.
LAFC, as detailed by LWOS beat writer Trebor Tracy, got hit hard with COVID-19 cases. Key players like Diego Rossi, Brian Rodriguez, Eddie Segura and Diego Palacios will all miss the match after testing positive for COVID-19. Rossi, of course, is the biggest blow to the offense. He led the league with 14 goals in 19 matches.
The MLS injury report list has not been updated since Nov. 8, so it’s a bit tricky to go by it. However, last listed for the Sounders is that Brad Smith is still dealing with a right adductor strain. Also, Shane O’Neill is listed as being in concussion protocol, but once again that could have changed.
𝙃𝙮𝙥𝙚𝙙. 𝙀𝙣𝙚𝙧𝙜𝙞𝙯𝙚𝙙. 𝙒𝙞𝙧𝙚𝙙. 🤩
Next: Round 1️⃣ of the #MLSCupPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/lQEcH1bbxS
— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) November 24, 2020
Schmetzer & Players: “Quotes”
Brian Schmetzer, who is up for a contract extension this offseason, said that LAFC head coach Bob Bradley is going to motivate his team and have them ready. Schmetzer said he needs to make sure his team is “ready for anything.”
“None of these guys are going to take LAFC for granted,” Schmetzer said on Friday. “This is MLS. This is crazy and anything can happen. There’s been playoff upsets in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference throughout the years. It’s never, ever, easy. Our team is too smart to let our guard down.”
“You’re going to have a motivated LAFC team come up here and try to do what we did to them.”
Meanwhile, versatile midfielder João Paulo said on Monday that the Sounders are familiar with LAFC’s tactics. He reiterated that the Sounders need to be smart with their game plan.
“We’re ready to play them,” João Paulo said. “They’re missing some players, but they like to play in transitions. LAFC is a fast team, especially in the final third. We need to be smart. I think we’ve had a great week of training, so we’re ready… We need to be smart because some games we start from behind, so it’s very difficult to come back in the game.”
This match is going to be big.
The Sounders have the numbers over LAFC and were dealt a huge sigh of relief with Rossi being ruled out — although nobody wishes COVID-19 positive cases on anyone, without a doubt. However, the Sounders are going to take full advantage of the league-leading scorer being out.
But, like my counterpart Tracy wrote, don’t forget about Carlos Vela.
This was a year riddled with injuries for him. However, he’s still who he is and is lethal on the attack. Losing out on Arreaga is going to hurt, but if O’Neill can keep Vela under wraps and help feed the ball toward the midfield, the Sounders should be able to create some offense and keep LAFC off the scoreboard.
On paper, it seems like Seattle could really cruise to a blowout victory. However, LAFC is a wildcard team. Don’t sleep on Vela and the return of Mark-Anthony Kaye. I do predict that the Sounders will win, but it’ll be a close 2-1 victory with some late heroics from potentially Jordan Morris or Ruidiaz.
As a reminder, the winner will face FC Dallas on either Dec. 1 or 2.
🗣 "Nothing is given, everything is earned"@Stefan24Frei's huddle speeches 🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/Y6Ion5hk80
— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) November 24, 2020