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.
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.