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Raúl Ruidíaz seems to save his best for LAFC

Sounders striker has scored five goals in five games against LAFC.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

One of the interesting elements of the burgeoning rivalry between the Seattle Sounders and Los Angeles FC is that, at times, it can seem a bit more like a mutual-appreciation society than one filled with trash talking and animosity. Sure, the rivalry has had its heated moments — Brian Schmetzer’s “feeling better than Bob” postgame comment, various tussles and thrown beer cans — but the players and coaches have more often gone out of their way to praise their opponents, as opposed to needle them.

A perfect example came this week when Bob Bradley was asked about Raúl Ruidíaz, the Sounders striker who has scored five goals in five games against LAFC, four of which have come in the last three appearances and three of which have come in two playoff meetings.

“Ruidiaz, for whatever reason, he’s always sharp and comes to play against us, he’s a good player,” Bradley told reporters this week. “What makes him good is his alertness, his awareness, his sharpness for where the ball is going to come, how to make a little space for himself. So he’s an interesting challenge, because he’s not big but he’s smart, and he reads plays very quickly. So if you lose the attention even for a split second, he finds a moment to take advantage.”

When told about Bradley’s comments, Schmetzer was clearly pleased.

“I’m thankful that Bob appreciated Raúl’s talent,” Schmetzer said. “It’s always good to know other coaches have respect for your players. They have a good team too.

“Big-time players step up in those moments and you can list Raúl as a big-time player.”

Although the Sounders and LAFC both have natural, regional rivals, games between these two teams are quickly turning into some of the most anticipated matchups in MLS. That is largely due to the fact that both teams have been at or near the top of the Western Conference whenever they play and are generally considered two of the most ambitious teams in MLS.

LAFC (164 points) and the Sounders (157) have the two highest point totals since 2018 and FiveThirtyEight recently dubbed them the two teams most likely to win the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup this year.

ESPN commentator Taylor Twellman went as far as to declare them the two “super clubs” in the league.

LAFC got the better of their early meetings, ironically. It wasn’t until their fifth all-time meeting that the Sounders scored their first win over the 2018 expansion side. But that game was also easily the most important of the them as the Sounders spoiled LAFC’s dominant season by scoring a 3-1 win on the road in the Western Conference finals. Ruidíaz, by the way, scored two goals in that game.

Their next clash came in the knockout round of the MLS is Back Tournament last year, with LAFC scoring a dominant 4-1 win, only for the Sounders to come back and win two of three meetings during the truncated 2020 MLS regular season and to follow that up with a dominant 3-0 win in last year’s playoffs. Ruidíaz, notably, scored in that game as well, improving the Sounders’ record to 4-1-0 against LAFC when he plays.

“Raúl scores goals, that’s what he does,” Sounders forward Will Bruin said this week. “He likes the big stage, big games, you can never turn off against him. He comes alive in the final third and is always a threat.”