What could be better than this: a Western Conference showdown seven weeks into the season? One is a perennial playoff side (except last year – more on that in a second) that is a two-time MLS Cup winner and the first (and as yet, only) CONCACAF Champions League winner. And the other, a Midwest upstart that, until last week, was on a historic run, and which still sits top of, not just the West, but the league, despite having played only slightly more games in their history than their opposition has played MLS Cup Finals.
So who’s gonna win? Yeah, who knows? But here are some thoughts about how it could all go down and why.
Previewing St. Louis City SC Game Against the Seattle Sounders
Why St. Louis City SC Will Win
— St Louis CITY SC (@stlCITYsc) April 6, 2023
One would think that suffering their first loss – at home and to a Reynoso-less MUFC, no less – would be the clock striking twelve for 2023’s Cinderella story. But coach Bradley Carnell was weirdly (refreshingly? Absurdly?) positive in his post-match press conference, reminding all and sundry that “the score is zero” for the next game and they were “excited to get to work”.
That coupled with player comments post-game that expressed dismay at some lack of focus and energy could add up to a team that is, as Jake and Elwood might say, on a mission from God. And remember, St. Louis City’s game is predicated on three things – a disciplined back line, a midfield that is thus freed up to create chaos for the opposition, and a top line that takes advantage of the opportunities that chaos creates.
One could argue that when they display a lack of energy and focus it disproportionately affects that specific strategy. And one could further say that they won’t be making that mistake two weeks in a row. And if they don’t, they could easily steal a goal on the counter and find themselves flying out of Sea-Tac airport with three points from this Western Conference showdown, and still on top of the table. Because remember, St. Louis is still undefeated on the road.
Why Seattle Sounders Will Win
Why? You’re kidding, right? This is Seattle. At Lumen Field. With potentially the largest – and loudest – crowd St. Louis City has yet faced? You look in the dictionary under “daunting” and you see, um, Saturday’s match.
And remember, this is not just any Sounders team. This is a Sounders team that ESPN has at the top of the power rankings. That MLSoccer.com has number three. A Sounders team that, because they uncharacteristically missed the playoffs last year, is not in CONCACAF Champions League, so they’re not the worn out, jet-lagged and ragged version they were for much of last year. Indeed, this is a focused and firing-on-all-cylinders Sounders side that’s not only averaging 2 goals a game, and not only has the league’s leading scorer (Jordan Morris) but that has done all of it facing an appreciably more difficult schedule than St. Louis has.
Both have faced (and beaten) RSL, but where St. Louis City has played Austin, Minnesota, Charlotte, Chicago, and San Jose (the last four of whom finished sixth, ninth, 12th, and 14th respectively last year), Seattle has drawn against the defending MLS champs LAFC, beaten the Galaxy (fourth last year) and lost 1-0 to Cincinnati (fifth last year). So the advantage for this Western Conference showdown– despite the worse record – Sounders.
Why They Will Draw
St Louis could easily spend the entire game defending – which they’re really good at when they’re focused – frustrating not only the Sounders attack but also reducing the number of opportunities for their own attack to get going. So while Seattle has firepower that can always be scary, St. Louis has the potential to withstand it. For 90 minutes?
Yes, potentially. That said, Schmetzer’s no dummy and if St. Louis City is able to hold the Sounders scoreless in the first half, he’ll undoubtedly have some tricks up his sleeve for the second half. Lord knows he has the resources. But Carnell’s no dummy either. and while his bench isn’t as deep and tested as Seattle’s there is a synergy and unity among the side that is unusual in an expansion club. Exactly what you need when a team is showing you things you’ve never seen before.
Western Conference Showdown – Saturday, April 8, 9:30 central, 7:30 Pacific
Time to bring the heat on Saturday 🔥 pic.twitter.com/HzfsVpfoq6
— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) April 7, 2023
Right now, Draft Kings has Seattle Sounders at -350 and SLCSC at +250. And when some of that sweet Microsoft money starts pouring in from Bellevue, those numbers could easily get more lopsided. Maybe. On the other hand, everyone thought St Louis would be swimming with the catfish by now. Instead, they’re soaring with the eagles. So who knows? Like the man said, this is what’s great about sports…
Photo Credit: Jeff Le-USA TODAY Sports on March 18, 2023, of St. Louis CITY SC Headshot.