We may be less than two months into the season, but the Seattle Sounders are already getting ready to face LAFC for the second time. The first meeting was a 1-1 tie in Los Angeles in which each team was missing star players. LAFC may be a bit closer to full strength in this one, but the Sounders may actually be even more short-handed.
No Vela; still worried
I think that no matter who lines up for LAFC whenever they play the Sounders, I’ll always have a little tinge of worry. LAFC is a good team even without Carlos Vela in the lineup and even though they’re pretty far down the table at the moment. Diego Rossi is still good, as are their midfielders, so the Sounders will still have a tough game on their hands. There’s also a chance that Vela returns. Let’s see them get the job done. — Mark
Next man up in goal
Thankfully it sounds like Stefan Frei’s injury won’t be as bad as we all feared. We all loved seeing Alex Roldan make three saves on Wednesday night, but the Sounders will likely start a backup goalkeeper in goal on Sunday. Whether it’s Stefan Cleveland or Spencer Richey, the team will need to adapt to who is between the sticks. I am confident in either of the ‘keepers to put a string of games together, but neither are as good as Frei. The styles are similar but it’s important to have a settled back line in front of goal, which...leads me to my next point. — Mark
Strong left side
There’s been a lot of change in Seattle’s backline with the new formation. Brian Schmetzer has tinkered a bit early in the season but this is the time to settle on a “First Choice” while a backup goalkeeper is starting. Personally, I think the three centerbacks should be Nouhou, Xavier Arreaga, and Yeimar Gomez Andrade. I have a feeling Schmetzer thinks Shane O’Neill is a first-choice option, but I’m hopeful he’s at least open-minded on that.
It’s also important to lean into your strengths with a new formation. The combination of Nouhou and Brad Smith on the left side is a legit strength of this team and should be broken up as little as possible over the season. — Mark
Give the kids another run
The Sounders started two teens for just the second time in franchise history on Wednesday, and while we’re unlikely to see that again, it would be good to see the kids continue to get runs. Danny Leyva played well enough to at least keep himself in the conversation and Ethan Dobbelaere apparently did what was asked, even if he wasn’t particularly active on the ball. But assuming Josh Atencio is still unavailable, the player I’d really like to see is Reed Baker-Whiting. The recently signed 16-year-old has impressed coaches throughout his time in the organization and seems to have the sort of growth mindset that will allow him to excel early. — Jeremiah
Last hurdle of a tough stretch
Ignoring the results, it can’t be underestimated how difficult of a start of the season Seattle’s had. That can be underlined by the fact that this is the second time the Sounders will be facing LAFC in six games and they’ll now have played either a playoff team from last year or one of the hottest teams this year in every match. It’s really, really important for Seattle to finish off this block of games strong. A win would not only tie their best-ever start (they began 2019 5-0-1) but would also set them up really well for the final two games before the June break. The next handful of games are against teams that aren’t as good as the Sounders, and present a different set of challenges, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Beat LAFC. — Mark