Regardless of how they looked early on in the MLS is Back Tournament, the Seattle Sounders showed they’re happy to stick around as long as it takes in order to add to their already impressive trophy case. The next step could prove to be their most challenging as they’ll face the tournament’s most dynamic offensive team in Los Angeles FC on Monday. Here’s what we hope to see:
Feel better than Bob
One of the most enjoyable moments in Sounders history was when Brian Schmetzer said he was “feeling better than Bob” after Seattle beat LAFC 3-1 in the Western Conference Final last year. While the stakes for this matchup aren’t as high as they were last year, it’s still a good goal to aim for. Let’s feel better than Bob, again.
It won’t be easy — it never is against LAFC — but the odds aren’t as stacked against the Sounders this time around. Bradley and Co. are heading into this match on the shortest rest of any knockout team. They’ve also allowed seven goals in their three group stage games, second most of any team. Oh, and some guy named Carlos Vela won’t be playing for them.
Stabilize the backline
The Sounders will likely be without their first choice centerback pairing against LAFC. Assuming it’s Gustav Svensson and Shane O’Neill, they’ll have their work cut out for them. LAFC’s attack is as dynamic as any, with Diego Rossi (five goals) and Bryan Rodriguez (one goal, three assists) being joined by the resurgent Bradley Wright-Phillips, who has already scored more goals in his first three games with LAFC (three) than he did in 24 appearances with the New York Red Bulls last year (two). Despite their own shaky defense, LAFC’s scored the most goals in Orlando so far (11). Seattle will probably need to adopt a “bend but not break” mentality at the back. Keep it simple and limit errors, that’s what will give the Sounders the best chance in this one.
No Sounders player has made a stronger case for themselves during this tournament than Nouhou, who has been arguably their most consistent player and probably the best defensive one too. We’ve always known that he had the speed, skill, and willingness to cover ground necessary to be an elite left back, but he’s never put it all together quite like he has in Disney World. LAFC, though, pose the biggest test yet. As much improvement as he’s shown going forward, this might be the chance for him to show how much he’s grown by simply being the lockdown defender we know he can be.
Ready for revenge
Let’s be clear: No matter what happens on Monday, no result will come close to evening the score from the Sounders’ win over LAFC in last year’s Western Conference final. That hasn’t stopped LAFC from talking about revenge, though, and the Sounders need to be ready for a motivated opponent.
Traditionally, that means weathering the early storm and settling into the game. With no homefield advantage, it might not play out quite like that. In this case, it might behoove the Sounders to strike first and let doubt creep into their opponents. The Sounders, after all, have plenty of history with big games and have the experience necessary to handle this one.