It's a billing that'd be fit for a final. Seattle Sounders vs LAFC at Lumen Field under the lights. And yet, it's only a conference semifinal with no trophy on the line.
The stakes are still high whenever these teams play and conversations about legacy are on the line tonight. The winner gets the chance to host the Western Conference Final with a trip to the big dance on the line. Right where these teams expect to be every year.
The loser? Well, they'll have to deal with coming up short and questions about an aging core heading into a pivotal offseason. The feeling of regret will undoubtedly follow, wondering if this group could've done more together.
When you look at the head-to-head history of these two teams, LAFC holds more wins overall, but Seattle has won the more important matchups. There has been two playoff matches between these clubs and the Sounders won both of them, in 2019 and 2020. In fact, the match in 2020 was nearly three years ago to the date, which saw the Sounders win 3-1 in route to the Western Conference Final.
As for LAFC, it seems like they're already building up the excuses. It's hard to say a team that finishes third in their conference had a bad season, however, they've come up a bit short by their standards. The 2022 MLS Cup & Supporters’ Shield winners lost in the Concacaf Champions League Final earlier this year and finished 17 points off the Shield this year. The mood has been sour for them, as head coach Steve Cherundolo has been complaining about MLS roster rules and referees this season. The pressure is on him and the team to perform despite them being a one trick pony.
Mind you, that pony is Denis Bouanga and he is quite good. His 29-goal contributions this season in MLS play account for about half of all LAFC's goals. He's the type of player that could win a match in the manner of minutes.
One key stat
19 - The Sounders are unbeaten at home in 19 playoff straight matches. That is a league-tying record.
This is Seattle Sounders playoff soccer. You should be feeling confident at this stage, because this is what this club does. LAFC is definitely a formidable foe, but they are not infallible. The Sounders are at home, in the playoffs, and more often than not they win these games.
How close to full strength is everyone?
- The lingering question about the Sounders' fitness is about whether or not Reed Baker-Whiting is fully fit. He was a full participant in training this week and it seems likely he'll be on the bench tonight.
- LAFC is fully fit.
Sounders (4-2-3-1): Frei; Nouhou, Ragen, Yeimar, A. Roldan; Joao Paulo, Atencio; Chu, Rusnak, C. Roldan; Morris
LAFC (4-3-3): Crepeau; Palacios, Chiellini, Murillo, Hollingshead; Acosta, Sanchez, Tillman; Bouanga, Gonzalez, Vela
What you need to know
Sounders record (2nd place): 14-9-11, +9 GD
LAFC record (3rd place): 14-10-10, +15 GD
Where: Lumen Field, Seattle, WA
Kickoff time: 6:55pm Pacific Time
Commentators (AppleTV): Jake Zivin and Taylor Twellman