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Five things we expect to see when Sounders visit LAFC

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This should be a fun one.

Max Aquino/Sounder at Heart

There’s no reason to pretend otherwise, the Seattle Sounders will be underdogs on Tuesday. Los Angeles FC has set the MLS record for points in a season, goal-difference and boasts possibly the best player in league history at near his peak in Carlos Vela. But they also aren’t an unstoppable machine. Here’s what we’re expecting to see:

Scenes in the stands

Look, we get it. You’re tired of hearing about how great of atmosphere LAFC and the 3252 have created at Banc of California Stadium. But seriously, it’s going to be pretty great on Tuesday. While Los Angeles sports fans have a well-earned reputation for being more about going to games to people watch more than creating a bonafide atmosphere, it does seem like LAFC have bucked that trend. Whatever is going on in the rest of the stadium, the supporters’ section is a legit spectacle. Regardless of the hype around El Trafico, this is the most important match to have been played in Southern California since the LA Galaxy hosted MLS Cup in 2014. The visiting section for Sounders fans should be a couple-hundred strong as well, which will only help. I fully expect this match to live up to the hype and badly wish I could be there to see it. - Jeremiah

Physicality and fouls in the midfield

Lodeiro, Roldan and Svensson will have their hands full when they square up against LAFC’s midfield trio, especially if Mark Anthony-Kaye is available. While LAFC isn’t generally a team that commits a lot of fouls, their preferred midfield of Eduard Atuesta, Latif Blessing and Mark Anthony Kaye are all in the top-25 in the league for fouls committed. I wouldn’t call Seattle’s midfield soft by any means, but they have struggled at times when the opponent opts to break up their rhythm through physical play. They did well in spite of the physicality against RSL, though, which could provide a path through LAFC’s midfield as well. - Tim

Jordan Morris in 1 v 1s

LAFC, not unlike the Sounders, like to cause trouble by creating overloads when their fullbacks push forward to support the attack. When they lose the ball in the attack they re-press to prevent their opponent from getting into their offense. When the Sounders are able to win the ball off of LAFC’s attackers there’s the opportunity to play Morris into space so that he can then run at centerbacks in wide areas with the ball at his feet, whether that’s off of balls over the top, through balls, or quickly taken free kicks. - Tim

Goals, goals, goals

LAFC led the league in goals this season by almost 0.65 goals per game. The Sounders haven’t been nearly as prolific this season, but in the playoffs so far they’ve been able to score goals and create chances at a pretty impressive rate. Both teams have multiple guys who can set their teammates up or score goals themselves, and they can both do it in a number of different ways. The defenses have both had their good moments, but we’ve also seen each side give up their share of goals in the playoffs so far. It might not necessarily be a shoot-out, but there will be goals. - Tim

Going for it

No part of me thinks Brian Schmetzer has any intention of simply trading punches with statistically the best team in MLS history. Especially on the road, this would be an almost indefensible decision. But I’ll be shocked if the Sounders simply sit in a low block and wait for a few chances to hit LAFC on the counter. While there are examples of teams finding success doing just that — and the Sounders kinda pulled it off in their home game earlier this year — it would be a mistake. For one, the Sounders just aren’t well-equipped to play this way and when they’ve managed to pull it off, it’s usually required a bit of good fortune. The Sounders are at their best when they play like they did against Real Salt Lake, more willing to sacrifice possession for attacking opportunities than sitting deep and looking for long balls over the top. That likely means lots of aggressive passing from the likes of Nicolas Lodeiro and Gustav Svensson; aggressive runs from the fullbacks and Cristian Roldan; and a willingness to challenge higher up the field from the centerbacks. It comes with risk, but it also offers the Sounders their best chance. - Jeremiah

Lineup

There’s definitely a risk to using a lineup that hasn’t been used all year in the most important game of the season, but there’s also something poetic about returning to the attacking group we were all so excited about during the first six games.