The first step toward a potential MLS Cup repeat will be blocked by a familiar foe. For the second consecutive year, the Seattle Sounders will play Los Angeles FC in the MLS Playoffs on Nov. 24 at 7:30 PM. The two teams have split their previous four meetings in 2020, which includes LAFC eliminating the Sounders from the MLS is Back Tournament.
“Well, you gotta beat the best if you want to be the best,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said following Sunday’s 4-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes. “They’re going to try to do what we did to them last year.”
During last year’s playoffs, the Sounders ended LAFC’s season in the Western Conference finals, ruining what many considered to be the greatest campaign in MLS history. The Sounders, of course, followed up that masterful 3-1 performance with their second MLS Cup in four years.
The roles aren’t quite reversed this year, but that narrative will be tempting. Thanks to their Decision Day win, the Sounders moved up to second place in the Western Conference and boast the second-best goal-difference in the league (+21).
After giving up a late goal, LAFC was forced to settle for a tie in their Decision Day match and dropped to the No. 7 seed. This is no normal No. 7 seed, though. LAFC led MLS with 47 goals scored — an average of 2.14 per game — and have at times looked similar to their record-breaking squad of last year.
Neither team will be at completely full strength. The Sounders will likely be missing Xavier Arreaga (Ecuador) and Gustav Svensson (Sweden), while LAFC are likely to be without Diego Rossi (Uruguay), Brian Rodriguez (Uruguay), Jose Cifuentes (Ecuador) and Diego Palacios (Ecuador). Even though he’s been called up, Raúl Ruidíaz is expected to be available as MLS considers him a “recovered person” and won’t need to quarantine.
“We expect a tough opponent, definitely not a seventh seed,” Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan said. “Great teams go from a good regular season team to a great playoff team. We need that extra level from the whole team. We won’t take them lightly.”
Full playoff schedule
Friday, Nov. 20 (two games)
3:30 p.m.: No. 8 New England Revolution vs. No. 9 Montreal Impact (FS1/FOX Deportes, TSN, TVA Sports)
6 p.m.: No. 7 Nashville SC vs. No. 10 Inter Miami CF (ESPN2/ESPN Deportes, TSN, TVA Sports)
Eastern and Western Conference Round One (8 games)
(Western Conference No. 1 vs. No. 8 seed, No. 2 vs No. 7 seed, No. 3 vs. No. 6 seed, Nov. 4 vs No. 5 seed. Eastern Conference No. 1 vs lower advancing Play-In Round seed, No. 2 vs. higher advancing Play-In Round seed, No. 3 vs. No. 6 seed, Nov. 4 vs No. 5 seed)
Round One (8 games)
Saturday, Nov. 21
9 a.m.: No. 4 Orlando City SC vs. No. 5 New York City FC (UniMás/TUDN, TSN, TVA Sports, MLSsoccer.com, MLS App)
Noon: No. 3 Columbus Crew SC vs. No. 6 New York Red Bulls (UniMás/TUDN, TSN, TVA Sports, MLSsoccer.com, MLS App)
Sunday, Nov. 22
1 p.m.: No.1 Sporting Kansas City vs. No. 8 San Jose Earthquakes (FS1/FOX Deportes, TSN, TVA Sports)
4:30 p.m.: No. 4 Minnesota United FC vs. No. 5 Colorado Rapids (ESPN/ESPN Deportes, TSN, TVA Sports)
7 p.m.: No. 3 Portland Timbers vs. No. 6 FC Dallas (ESPN/ESPN Deportes, TSN, TVA Sports)
Tuesday, Nov. 24
3 p.m.: No. 2 Toronto FC vs. higher advancing seed from the Play-In Round (FS1/FOX Deportes, TSN, TVA Sports)
5 p.m.: No. 1 Philadelphia Union vs. lower advancing seed of the Play-In Round (ESPN/ESPN Deportes, TSN, TVA Sports)
7:30 p.m.: No. 2 Seattle Sounders FC vs. No. 7 Los Angeles Football Club (ESPN/ESPN Deportes, TSN, TVA Sports)