The stage is set for a clash of the titans in the Western Conference, as the Seattle Sounders will head down to Banc of California Stadium to take on LAFC on Tuesday. LAFC has arguably been the best team in all of MLS this year, with some even saying they are the best team in the league’s history. Now that’s a pretty bold statement, but it is a hard one to argue against. They finished with a record of 21-4-9(W-L-T), which added up to a point total of 72. That was 16 more points than the 2nd team in the West, the Seattle Sounders. The season was basically a runaway for the black and gold, and that lead to them to a first-round playoff bye. In the 2nd round of the playoffs, LAFC faced off against their cross-town rivals LA Galaxy in El Trafico. The match lived up to all of the hype, with 8 combined goals. LAFC came out on top with the 5-3 win thanks to their frontman Carlos Vela’s first-half brace. On the other side of the coin, we have the Seattle Sounders. A team that year in and year out, have a rollercoaster season that somehow still leads to a playoff berth. The team never dipped below the playoff line this year but did find themselves in every position between 1 and 7. A strong finish to the year, including a record of 5-2-1 over the last 8 regular season matches, saw Seattle secure the 2nd seed in the West. The Sounders played host to two playoff matches, as they did not have a bye. In the first round, they had a date with FC Dallas. The match went back and forth, but Seattle eventually came out on top 4-3. The following Wednesday, they played Real Salt Lake. This match was all Rave Green, as they got the shutout win 2-0. So how did these two clubs fair in their regular season meetings? Well, if you’re a Sounder fan, you probably won’t like the answer to that. The two teams met twice in the regular season, with LAFC getting the only win. The first match was back in April down in California. Carlos Vela had a brace, go figure, as LAFC tore apart the Sounder defense to the tune of 4 goals. The win propelled the LA club into first, a spot they didn’t give up for the rest of the season. In the second match, which only happened a week later, the SOunders were able to at least manage a draw thanks to a Jordan Morris goal. Since LAFC joined the league just two years ago, they have not lost to Seattle. They have a record of 3-0-1 with a goal differential of +5. In other words, they have owned Seattle. So, is there any hope for the Sounders on Tuesday? If there is one thing that can be said about LAFC’s season, it’s that it didn’t end perfectly. In their final 8 regular season matches, their record was 2-1-5. They started to have a leaky defensive backline, with counter-attacks starting to be a big issue. Even in their playoff match with LA Galaxy, the counter-attack was a problem. Luckily for Seattle, they have the speed to get out on the counter. No one has been hotter than Jordan Morris as of late, and not many are faster either. You add in Nicolás Lodeiro and Raúl Ruidíaz, Seattle could finally have the formula to pull an upset off. Prediction: I have been struggling with this for a few days now. The logical side says LAFC will continue their impressive season with a win. The gut says Seattle has been the hotter team and is in the better form, therefore they can pull off the win. My final prediction is somewhere in the middle. This will become a shootout, with neither side willing to concede. LAFC will score first, but Seattle will score last and that will be the difference between these two clubs. Seattle has a roster with experience and grit and they will find a way to keep their season alive. The final will be 4-3 in favor of Seattle.
Seattle Sounders FC
The dust has settled in Los Angeles with LAFC taking down Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the LA Galaxy by a final score of 5 to 3. While home-field advantage due to a Galaxy win would have been a dream come true, there is a reason to celebrate with an LAFC win – the Seattle Sounders have officially qualified for the 2020 Concacaf Champions League. Atlanta United secured their spot through the U.S. Open Cup, LAFC took the Supporters’ Shield, NYCFC paved their way by topping the Eastern Conference, and Toronto FC is unable to qualify for the tournament by winning MLS Cup as a Candian club. Should the Sounders win the cup, they will enter the CCL as MLS champion. If any other group finishes up top, the club would then jump into the spot reserved for the U.S. Open Cup champion due to having the next best overall season record. The 2020 Concacaf Champions League kicks off on February 18th and will conclude on May 7th of 2020 – featuring 16 clubs from eight associations. The winner will secure a position in the 2020 FIFA Club World Cup being held in Qatar. The official draw will be held on December 9th in Mexico City. Important dates:Round of 16: 18–20 February 2020 (1st leg), 25–27 February 2020 (2nd leg).Quarter-finals: 10–12 March 2020 (1st leg), 17–19 March 2020 (2nd leg).Semi-finals: 7–9 April 2020 (1st leg), 14–16 April 2020 (2nd leg).Finals: 28–30 April 2020 (1st leg), 5–7 May 2020 (2nd leg). The following clubs have qualified: MexicoAméricaUANLCruz AzulLeónUnited StatesLos Angeles FCNew York City FCAtlanta United FCSeattle Sounders FCCanadaMontreal ImpactJamaicaPortmore UnitedCosta RicaSaprissaSan CarlosEl SalvadorAlianzaGuatemalaComunicacionesHondurasMotaguaOlimpia
Gustav Svensson and Nicolás Lodeiro both score, as the Seattle Sounders take down Real Salt Lake. The first half was a sloppy one for Seattle, yet filled with plenty of opportunities. The Sounders looked sloppy with the ball in the first 45. They had a passing accuracy of only 72.4%, which led to Real Salt Lake winning the possession battle at 62%. Despite that, Seattle still had the better chances at getting the opening goal. Big shots by Lodeiro and Ruidíaz just couldn’t find the back of the net. Heading into halftime, RSL had to be the team feeling better. That good feeling didn’t last into the second half. The man that has been nicknamed the Goose, Gustav Svensson, headed in the opening goal in the 64th minute. The assist went to Nicolás Lodeiro, who put his corner kick right where it needed to be. With the 1-0 lead, momentum was on the Rave Green’s side and they didn’t look back. In the 81st minute Ruidíaz found Nico, who rocketed a shot past Nick Rimando for the 2-0 advantage. The two of them helped lead Seattle all season, and sealed their trip to the conference finals. The win is arguably one of Seattle’s strangest of the year. On paper, they were dominated by RSL in every category other than shots. The Sounders had an even worse passing percentage in the second half, but as coach Brian Schmetzer said, that’s soccer. “That’s the funny thing about soccer… They won the possession, but we had the better chances.” Better chances they did, Seattle had 10 shots on goal to RSL’s 1. At the end of the day, it’s all about putting the ball in the back of the net. Another big thing to come out of the match was the fact that Seattle had a shutout. They ended the regular season with two shutouts, but had struggled as of late in the playoffs when it came to giving up goals. They hadn’t had a playoff shutout since 2017, when they didn’t give up a goal until the MLS Cup Final. A very good sign as they continue their playoff push. What’s Next: Well, that all depends on tomorrow. The LA Galaxy and LAFC will face off in the other semifinal match. If LAFC wins, who is the number 1 seed in the West, Seattle will travel to LA next week. If the Galaxy win, then the Sounders will host the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday the 29th. The Sounders are 0-1-1 vs LAFC this season, with a 4-1 loss in Los Angeles back in April. On the other hand, they are 1-1-0 vs the Galaxy in their two regular season meetings. The win came at home in that 4-3 shootout on the first day of September.
Real Salt Lake and the Seattle Sounders will face off in the Conference Semifinals of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. Seattle is coming off one of the most exciting MLS playoff games in league history, as they took down FC Dallas 4-3 on Sunday. The match took 120 minutes to finally decide the outcome, as we needed extra time when neither side would budge in regulation. Raúl Ruidíaz had the only non Morris goal for Seattle, opening up the score book in the 18th. Reggie Cannon 39′, Matt Hedges 64′ and Bryan Acosta 82′ had the three goals for FC Dallas. It was finally ended when Jordan Morris headed in a shot deflection for his 3rd goal of the match. Jordan’s three goals (22′,74′,113′), earned him the hat trick and pushed Seattle through to the semis. Real Salt Lake and Portland had an exciting game in their own right. Damir Kreilach gave RSL the early lead in the 28th minute when he headed in a cross that set him up beautifly. Portland would respond with their own header just two minutes into the second half. Sebastian Blanco whipped a corner into the box, finding the head of Dairon Asprilla who rose above everyone else for the equalizer. We would stand pat at 1-1 until the 87th. Jefferson Savarino slid in the winner after Portland wasn’t able to clear a pass rolling at the top of the box. Savarino punched RSL’s flight to the Emerald City. Real Salt Lake and Seattle met twice in the regular season, with both teams winning on their home pitch. Seattle won back in April, thanks to a lone Nicolás Lodeiro goal at CenturyLink Field. RSL returned the favor in August, dismantling the Sounders defense to the tune of a 3-0 result at Rio Tinto. Good news for Seattle, this match will be played on their home turf. The key to this matchup is pretty clear, get the lead early. Seattle can ill afford to be behind early in the match, even with being at home. This match will be a quick turn around for both sides, but the Sounders logged more miles on their bodies in the opening round. Fatigue may be an issue for the rave green, so having to play catch up surly wouldn’t be in their favor. On the other hand, CenturyLink Field is one of the toughest places to play in the MLS. The longer it takes RSL to get into the game, the louder and more on top of you the crowd will feel. Seattle’s defense, which has been hit and miss all season, has been known to make one or two costly mistakes a game. Real will need to capitalize on those mistakes in order to move on. The Sounders did have two shutouts to end the regular season before giving up three to Dallas in round 1. They will need avoid another shootout if they want a chance at the Western Conference Final. Prediction: I believe the Sounders will move on in a 2-1 result on Wednesday. In typical Sounders fashion however, I do think it will come down the final minutes of the match. Nicolás Lodeiro will be the hero and score the game winner, moving them on to the Conference Final.
The Sounders needed every minute possible and a hat trick by Jordan Morris in order to take down FC Dallas. With the win, the Sounders will move on to the second round of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. Playoff intensity is a phrase used to describe the emotion and passion of postseason play, and nowhere was that more evident than at CenturyLink Field on Saturday afternoon. The two clubs left everything on the field in their first-round matchup, with the difference being Jordan Morris. We went to halftime with a 2-1 match in favor of the Seattle Sounders. Goals by Raúl Ruidíaz 18′ and Morris 22′ gave Seattle an early 2-0 lead. Reggie Cannon cut the lead in half with his 39th-minute goal. Many would argue that Dallas was the better team in the second half, and with their +1 goal differential in the second 45, it is also a fact. Matt Hedges scored a header off of a corner kick by Michael Barrios to level the match at 2-2 in the 64th. Morris would put Seattle back out in front 10 minutes later with his second goal, just to have Bryan Acosta level it again in the 82nd. Acosta’s goal would be the final score in regulation, as we headed to extra time even at 3. This was the first year that the MLS switched to a single-elimination playoff format. In years past they would have a home and away set up, where away goals would be valued higher as an aggregate system. So, if this was last year, FC Dallas would have won this match, but with the changes, we went into extra time. Extra time consists of two 15 minute halves. If neither team was on top after the 30 minutes, we would have headed to a penalty shootout. Luckily for Seattle, the shootout would not be required on this day. In an effort that clinched his first career hat trick, Jordan Morris headed in a Ruidíaz shot deflection into the bottom left corner of the Dallas net, putting them ahead in the 113th minute of the game. The hometown hero, who should be the comeback player of the year, barely could hold back his emotions after the winner. Morris, who missed most of 2018 with a Cruciate Ligament Rupture, has arguably been the MVP of this Sounders season. With the win, the Sounders will move on in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs and play the winner of Real Salt Lake and Portland Timbers later tonight. The Sounders split their matches with both Salt Lake and Portland in the regular season. That second-round match will be in Seattle on Wednesday the 23rd with a 7:00 pm kickoff time.
Sounders dominate the Loons from the opening kick, securing 2nd place in the West. A couple of things could have happened in today’s match, the Sounders could secure the 2nd seed in the west or they could fall as far as fifth. Seattle decided from the starting whistle that they would secure that spot right behind LAFC. The Rave Green’s first half was near flawless. They won the possession battle at 54.8% and took 7 more shots than the Loons. They also took 7 corners to Minnesota’s 1. Seattle’s dominance paid off in the 29th minute when Román Torres headed home a cross from Joevin Jones. Torres’ goal was his first MLS goal in a Sounder uniform. This was his first home match since a PED suspension back in early August caused him to miss 10 games. United almost had an equalizer from Ethan Finlay. He had Stefan Frei 1-on-1 but his shot went off of the left post and out for a goal kick. That was Minnesota’s best chance in the opening 45′ and we headed to half with Seattle up 1-0. The Loons made it a much more competitive second half. However, even with 5 extra minutes of stoppage time. They still weren’t able to find an equalizer. The Sounders played out the stoppage time and ended the match 1-0. Securing the 2nd seed out West and ensuring that they would host at least one playoff match this postseason. The final match stats showed a dominating Sounders win. They ended with a 12 shot advantage while having 4 shots on target to Minnesota’s 1. They also won the possession battle with a 51.4 to 48.6 advantage. Román Torres, who scored the game-winner, was crowned man of the match. WHAT’S NEXT: The Sounders will play host to FC Dallas in the first round of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. That match will be held on October 19th with the kickoff time still TBD. With the new playoff format, there will only be one game per matchup. In years past, there was a home and away format with away goals being weighted higher than a home goal. This season goals will be equal and it will be win or go home. If the Sounders win, they would be guaranteed one more home playoff match. If they were to make the Western Conference Finals, then they would play at LAFC, or if LAFC didn’t make it that far they would host the Conference Final.
On April 9th, 2017, a naive Portland Trail Blazers fan finished watching his team beat the Denver Nuggets in the second-to-last game of the NBA regular season. The Blazers were staring down the third seed in the Western Conference, with a win guaranteeing it. That was about the only thing that made sense. One sleepless night later, myself and others on NBA Twitter had finally concocted the full scenarios for the entire Western Conference. Mind you, this was with one game remaining. The next day, the NBA released its own version of what we’d already done, and IT WAS WRONG! They replaced it later in the day. The moral of this story: Playoff scenarios are very, very dangerous territory. They can lead to loss of sleep, extreme hunger, and borderline insanity. However, nothing is more entertaining than knowing exactly who to root for in every single game. It’s a kind of niche knowledge that cannot be replicated, stuck somewhere between pure enjoyment of watching your team win and the lack of satisfaction associated with understanding more about sports than the guy next to you. That’s why I’m here to figure it out for you. Format Major League Soccer has a new format for the 2019 playoffs. In short, the top seven teams in each conference get a shot at MLS Cup. To view the whole new format, click here. Standings What’s at stake There are effectively two different groups of teams in the standings: those fighting for position, and those fighting for their playoff lives at all. We’ll call these Groups A and B, respectively. None of the teams in the first group can finish higher than second, and no one from the second group can finish higher than sixth. Also, note some of the questionable runs of form that put these teams in such tough positions. The matchups Minnesota United @ Seattle Sounders Real Salt Lake @ Vancouver Whitecaps LA Galaxy @ Houston Dynamo San Jose Earthquakes @ Portland Timbers Colorado Rapids @ LAFC Sporting Kansas City @ FC Dallas How each team can get each spot: Minnesota Seattle LA Galaxy Salt Lake 2nd – W vs SEA– D vs SEA + LAG D/L – W vs MIN– D vs MIN + LAG D/L – W vs HOU + MIN/SEA D N/A 3rd – D vs SEA + LAG W– L vs SEA + LAG D/L + RSL D/L – D vs MIN + LAG W– L vs MIN + LAG D/L + RSL D/L – W vs HOU + MIN/SEA W – W vs VAN + MIN/SEA W + LAG D/L 4th – L vs SEA + LAG W + RSL D/L– L vs SEA + LAG D/L + RSL W – L vs MIN + LAG W + RSL D/L– L vs MIN + LAG D/L + RSL W – W vs HOU + MIN/SEA W– D vs HOU + MIN/SEA D + RSL D/L – W vs VAN + MIN/SEA D + LAG W– D vs VAN + LAG L 5th – L vs SEA + LAG W + RSL W – L vs MIN + LAG W + RSL W – L vs HOU + RSL D/L – W vs VAN + MIN/SEA W + LAG W– D vs VAN + LAG W/D– L vs VAN Group A notes: If either Minnesota or Seattle win, they clinch 2nd and the loser can drop as low as 5th LA Galaxy will avoid LAFC’s side of the bracket with a win or draw—which is weird, because Galaxy are the one team that might not fear LAFC The only way Galaxy can lose home-field advantage is if they lose and Salt Lake win Real Salt Lake can draw and still clinch home-field Real Salt Lake can win and still not clinch home-field Portland Dallas San Jose Colorado 6th – W vs SJE– D vs SJE + DAL D/L – W vs SKC + POR D/L – W vs POR + DAL D/L N/A 7th – D vs SJE + DAL W– L vs SJE + DAL D/L – W vs SKC + POR W– D vs SKC + POR/SJE W/D + COL D/L– L vs SKC + POR W + COL D/L – W vs POR + DAL W– D vs POR + DAL L* – W vs LFC + POR/SJE W + DAL L– W vs LFC by 2+ goals + POR/SJE D + DAL L* 8th – L vs SJE + DAL W – D vs SKC + SJE W– L vs SKC + POR/SJE D + COL D/L – D vs POR + DAL L + COL W by 2+ goals*– L vs POR + COL D/L – W vs LFC + SJE W + DAL L– W vs LFC + 9th N/A – L vs SKC + COL W – L vs POR + COL W – W vs LFC + SJE W/D + DAL W/D– D/L vs LFC *= If San Jose and Portland draw and FC Dallas lose, Colorado will overtake San Jose with a two-goal win. Group B notes: Portland will clinch a playoff spot with a win or draw Portland can still clinch a spot with a loss Dallas can still clinch a spot with a win, draw, or loss San Jose will clinch a spot with a win, although they can still do so with a draw and some help Colorado still has a snowball’s chance in hell at the playoffs if other results fall into place How do you think the West will shake out? Where will your team finish? Did I get anything wrong? Comment below or argue with me on Twitter (@folkestad3).