Everyone’s attention perks up whenever the Seattle Sounders and LAFC play, and this weekend is no different. An early season clash of teams expected to win shiny things by the end of the season is rightfully the big billing of this weekend’s MLS matchups. LAFC, who won a double last season come to Seattle to play the reigning Concacaf Champions League champs. Here’s what we’re looking at in this matchup.
One key stat
2 - The road team has only won twice in this matchup. LAFC won their inaugural match against Seattle in 2018 and the Sounders famously won the 2019 Western Conference Final in LA. Since then, the Sounders have gone 4-0-2 at Lumen Field.
What the Sounders will try to do
This match is being billed as the first huge marquee matchup of the MLS regular season. It will be interesting to see how the Sounders approach this match. LAFC probably has the edge on talent and overall quality given the incredible season they just had. However, the Sounders have played LAFC well in recent years. Even during a poor year last year, they were able to get a draw at home against LAFC — a game the Sounders rightly felt like they should’ve won.
Seattle will need to test the strength of their wide play. Thankfully, both Roldans and Jordan Morris are having excellent seasons so far. The best way to play “through” LAFC’s dynamic press is to actually just play around it. Stretch their central midfielders out wide and make the pitch huge. The experience from the Colorado match will actually help the Sounders massively here. Colorado’s press and high line were very bad, but the shape and setup is similar to what LAFC does. LAFC is obviously so much better at those things, so think of this one as kind of a “final boss” of sorts.
What LAFC will try to do
LAFC’s bread and butter is an ultra-aggressive press that suffocates you while having insanely dangerous forwards to punish your defensive sloppiness. They play a 4-3-3 with some variety, but their midfielders are active everywhere. The forward three do not play set positions and it would not be surprising to see all three of them interchange throughout the 90 minutes.
LAFC generally wants things to happen in the middle of the field or just off the corner of the box. What will be interesting to see is they will be playing their 4th match in 14 days and have not rotated a lot. Sounders fans are all too familiar with what Concacaf Champions League can do to you. Will they go full strength and go all out or use some of their younger reserves to keep the tempo?
The Sounders are still feeling good about themselves after two wins in their first two home games and this one is at home, while LAFC will be playing their fourth game in 10 days. They won the first three of those by a cumulative score of 10-2, but the last game was a 2-1 loss to Costa Rica Alajuelense that was still good enough for them to advance in Concacaf Champions League.
How close to full strength is everyone?
- Héber is missing out on this one for the Sounders, other than that, things get a little more nuanced. Technically, both Raúl Ruidíaz and Obed Vargas are fit (i.e. not on the injury report), but Ruidíaz didn’t start against Cincinnati and Vargas wasn’t even on the bench. My suspicion is that Raul probably starts and plays ~60 minutes, and then Vargas is probably on the bench. But who knows?
- LAFC haven’t yet published an injury report but Ryan Hollingshead missed their last game after coming out of the New England Revolution match with a chest injury and they are playing their fourth match in 10 days, so some rotation is expected.
Sounders (4-2-3-1): Frei; Nouhou, Ragen, Yeimar, A. Roldan; Rusnák, João Paulo; Morris, Lodeiro, C. Roldan; Ruidiaz
LAFC (4-3-3): McCarthy; Palacios, Long, Murillo, Palencio; Sanchez, Tillman, Acosta; Vela, Bouanga, Opoku
What you need to know
Sounders record (3rd place in the West, 6th in the Shield): 2-1-0 (+5 GD)
LAFC record (2nd place in the West, 6th in the Shield): 2-0-0 (+5 GD)
Where: Lumen Field, Seattle, WA
Kickoff time: 1:25 PM PT
Commentators (AppleTV): Jake Zivin and Taylor Twellman
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Comment below where you are tuning in from to be included in our You Will Hear Us Map™️ for Match Three!— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) March 11, 2023
Tonight's match is free on Apple TV, so I am really hoping we can light up the map! #Sounders #VamosSounders #CINvSEA https://t.co/gVe10XGQI1 pic.twitter.com/AZ3NnfESUR