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Five things to watch vs. LAFC

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Sounders get one more shot at short-handed LAFC.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

The Seattle Sounders return for the second phase of the restarted MLS season tonight when they host Los Angeles FC. Here’s some of the storylines we’ll be watching:

Will it be safe to play?

Wildfires have continued to burn throughout the West Coast, affecting just about everyone in California, Washington and Oregon. Professional athletes are not immune. LAFC had to move their training closer to the beach in order to be safe, while the Sounders have mixed some indoor sessions into their regimen. Rain storms are supposed to make conditions cleaner by tonight, but MLS officials are apparently monitoring the situation. Ideally, the Air Quality Index will be below 100.

Did Xavier Arreaga earn another start?

The battle for the second starting centerback spot alongside Yeimar Goméz Andrade seems to still be open as neither Xavier Arreaga nor Shane O’Neill have shown the consistency needed to lock it down. Arreaga, though, would seem to have the inside track as the player with the higher upside and is coming off a mostly very good performance against the San Jose Earthquakes in which his passing was a clear benefit. Against a pressing team like LAFC his comfort on the ball should be a bonus, but they’re also a team that he struggled against mightily in Orlando. A solid performance in this one would go a long way to solidifying his spot.

How effective are Joao-Cristian against a tougher opponent?

With Gustav Svensson likely still out for tonight’s game, we’re likely to see Cristian Roldan and João Paulo revive their defensive midfield pairing that worked so well against the Earthquakes. Of course, LAFC presents a much tougher challenge. Even if Eduard Atuesta doesn’t start the game, LAFC’s midfield is still plenty talented. This will be a fascinating matchup to watch.

Can Joevin Jones replicate his performance?

No performance was more revelatory that Joness’ two-goal, two-assist masterpiece. It was the first time Jones had scored and assisted in the same MLS match and he seemed to be in the middle of virtually every dangerous attacking movement on the night. No one has ever doubted that Jones had the talent to dominate like that, the question has always been if he can do it on a consistent basis. Jones doesn’t need to replicate that performance, but it sure would be encouraging if he could at least remain involved throughout.

Will Nouhou bolster his case for playing time?

The player who will potentially be most adversely affected by Brad Smith’s signing is Nouhou. The degree to which that is true is at least somewhat in the Cameroonian’s control. Opponents like LAFC are exactly the type Nouhou should be looking forward to as his size and speed allow him to match up well with the likes of Brian Rodriguez or Diego Rossi. Last time he started against LAFC, things didn’t go so well. He’s capable of much better.