Sounder at Heart: So, after everything 2020 had to throw at us, it couldn’t stop the inevitable playoff matchup between LAFC and the Sounders. How confident are you feeling and do you think Bob will get his revenge after last year?
Angels on Parade: I really don’t know what to expect, to be honest! Given all the shoes dropping lately (more on that below) we’ll see if any mega curveballs come up before Tuesday. The season series is split 2-2, both teams have taken a bite out of the other this year and in past campaigns, and on their day, they’re both top quality.
For the most part, I feel good with the team projected to be available (again, more on that in a moment) and I think if they’re playing their best, LAFC can win. But LAFC have been stunned in the playoffs each of their first two years and this one is on the road, their first-ever road playoff game, if you can believe it. I think they are capable of winning; but if I were setting the odds I’d give Seattle favored status, but as far as in my heart of hearts, I think heading into it right now, it’s pretty open and I guess that’s what non-neutrals want out of a playoff game.
SAH: This season has been very silly because of COVID, injuries, and international breaks. Can you tell me who will be missing for LAFC on Tuesday?
AOP: All four of LAFC’s internationals this month are out...but it’s because of COVID! Yes, somehow all of Diego Rossi, Brian Rodriguez, Jose Cifuentes and Diego Palacios have tested positive for coronavirus in recent days. All four could theoretically start, but Rossi’s starting spot is normally written in permanent marker and Rodriguez starts basically every game, too. And Rossi was LAFC’s best player this year, won the Golden Boot, made the MLS Best XI, so losing him in particular is a *blow*.
On the other hand, I suppose, LAFC didn’t expect Rossi to be available anyway, so they’ve been planning to be without him for the past couple weeks for this game. It’s rotten that he can’t play but 2020, right? The silver lining is that Carlos Vela is back and has been scoring, so perhaps he can pick up the slack after missing nearly the entire season. And if there’s one player you can hope can carry a team for 90 minutes, it’s Vela, right?
Otherwise, I’m not aware of any other absences. Bob Bradley said both Bradley Wright-Phillips (personal matter) and Pablo Sisniega (injury?) have been training this week, so they should be available. This lineup will look a bit different but I think aside from Rossi’s canyon-sized absence, it will still be a pretty decent XI for LAFC...as long as there aren’t 11th hour injuries or coronavirus positives.
SAH: Neither team will be at their best, given the long layoff and absences for both teams. What areas of LAFC’s game are you worried about that Seattle could exploit?
AOP: The perpetual worry with this team, especially this year, is in the back. If the goalkeeping is up to snuff (Bradley refused to say which GK would start) that will keep them in the game, and if the defense holds firm, then they have every chance of scoring and winning. This season, a problem has been taking an early 1-0 lead and then failing to score an insurance goal or two, and conceding late to draw or lose. So even if LAFC take the lead, they’re going to need to turn it up and get another goal or three to make sure it stands. But it will be moot if the defense is like a sieve. So to me, the defense is by far the biggest concern.
When the reverse questions are posted, we’ll link here.