Top Stories

MLS Western Conference Final Preview: Veteran Sounders face high-flying LAFC

A pair of Major League Soccer’s top offensive attacks will meet at Banc of California Stadium on Tuesday with a berth in the 2019 MLS Cup Final at stake.

Supporters’ Shield winners LAFC will look to keep its sensational season going at home with the Seattle Sounders coming to town. Both teams have plenty of offensive firepower to choose from in what will be a highly-anticipated affair.

LAFC has Golden Boot winner Carlos Vela to lead the attack, while in-form Jordan Morris will counter for the visiting Sounders. This match could come down to depth if both teams are able to keep the other off the scoresheet.

Here is a closer look at what to expect for Tuesday’s Western Conference Final in Los Angeles.

Season Series

LAFC took four out of a possible six points against the Sounders in regular season, including a 4-1 thumping of Seattle in L.A. back on April 21st. Seattle fared better a week later, holding LAFC to a 1-1 draw at CenturyLink Field, but have yet to defeat Bob Bradley’s side in either of their four all-time meetings.

Vela has three goals in two meetings this season for LAFC, while Jordan Morris and Harry Shipp have scored for Seattle against their West rivals.

Players to Watch

LAFC: Carlos Vela, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Diego Rossi, Tyler Miller, Eduard Atuesta.

Sounders: Jordan Morris, Stefan Frei, Nicolas Lodeiro, Raui Ruidiaz, Cristian Roldan.

Matchup to Watch

Nicolas Lodeiro vs. Eduard Atuesta

Nicolas Lodeiro’s influence on the game will be major for the Sounders if they want to have chances in front of goal. However, the Uruguayan will be going up against one of the league’s best defensive midfielders this season in Eduard Atuesta.

Lodeiro’s relentless movement allows him to regularly find gaps to create chances and expose defensive weaknesses, but Atuesta is a tireless presence in midfield, one capable of keeping up with Lodeiro and neutralizing the Uruguayan.

X-Factors

LAFC: Latif Blessing

As much as Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi generate plenty of the attention for LAFC’s attacking success, Blessing’s contributions as a box-to-box midfield presence are extremely vital to LAFC’s offensive success. He showed that in the recent win against the Galaxy, where he frequently transitioned from ball-winner to attacking threat.

Sounders: Brad Smith

The Sounders left back could find himself matched up against Vela if LAFC starts Adama Diomande at striker, or facing Brian Rodriguez, who is another difficult assignment. Smith will need to force his way into the attack in order to try and force LAFC to devote some defensive attention to him, and potentially capitalize on space left open if LAFC gets stretched pushing numbers into the attack.

Outlook

LAFC will be the heavy favorites, but Seattle’s experience in title games gives the Sounders a clear chance to pull the upset.

Bob Bradley will need to decide whether to stick with the same attack that beat the Galaxy, or to insert Diomande at striker and sit Brian Rodriguez, shifting Vela to the right wing role he filled for much of his MVP season.

As impressive as Diomande was coming off the bench against the Galaxy, an attack with Vela as the false nine and Rodriguez working the wing is a better matchup against the Sounders defense, which has the physicality to deal with Diomande, but not the speed to cope with the elusive Vela operating at the top of the attack.

Seattle has relied a lot on Morris to generate offense, and Bradley could choose to start Tristan Blackmon at right back to try and deal with Morris. Steven Beitashour is a savvy veteran, but Blackmon has the physical tools to better cope with Morris. Of course, if Walker Zimmerman can’t start, then Blackmon will be needed in central defense.

The Sounders will need more from the opposite wing, whether that is Joevin Jones or Victor Rodriguez. Brian Schmetzer could stick with bringing Rodriguez off the bench, hoping that Jones’ athleticism helps Seattle cope with the inevitable attacking onslaught LAFC will throw at the Sounders early.

LAFC should prevail, but the combo of Lodeiro and Ruidiaz has the ability to strike early and put the pressure on the favorites, but as we saw against the Galaxy, LAFC is capable of providing a response when tested. Look for LAFC’s attack to be too much for Seattle to deal with, securing a place in the MLS Cup final for Bob Bradley’s squad.

Comments

Leave a Comment