LAFC vs Seattle Sounders
Sunday, November 26 at 6:30 pm PT
Location: Lumen Field, Seattle, Washington
Radio: 710 AM ESPN, ESPN LA App, 980 AM La Mera Mera
After a two-game sweep of the Vancouver Whitecaps in the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs Round One, Best-of-Three Series, LAFC travels to face the Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference Semifinal on Sunday, November 26, at Lumen Field.
Sunday’s matchup carries quite the history. LAFC’s first-ever home and away wins came in a pair of 1-0 victories over the Sounders in LAFC’s inaugural campaign in 2018. The Sounders knocked LAFC out of the 2019 and 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs. LAFC has lost only once to Seattle in the seven games the clubs have played since that 2020 playoff match.
LAFC’s all-time record against the Sounders is 8W-5L-4D, but the Black & Gold have yet to win at Lumen Field since that very first matchup on March 4, 2018. In their two meetings in 2023, LAFC drew with the Sounders, 0-0, in March, and won at home, 1-0, in June.
Led by head coach Brian Schmetzer, the Sounders are on a quest to win their third MLS Cup, having claimed the league championship in 2016 and 2019.
After fighting through injuries all year, the Sounders found a groove late this season and went on a 10-match unbeaten run to secure a second-place finish in the Western Conference standings. In the first round of the MLS Cup playoffs, the Sounders defeated FC Dallas two games to one in their best-of-three Series.
The Sounders’ top scorer is Jordan Morris, who has scored 11 goals in 26 matches played. Designated Player Nicolás Lodeiro has seen his role change down the stretch; the former team captain has appeared as a substitute in seven of his last 10 appearances, including all three playoff games against FC Dallas.
Striker Raúl Ruidíaz has also taken on a slightly diminished role, with five of his last 10 appearances coming off the bench. The Peruvian international, who has battled lower back and hamstring issues throughout 2023, recorded fewer goals and fewer minutes played this season than in any year since he joined Seattle in 2018.
Amid these lineup shifts, veteran Albert Rusnák moved into the “number-10” playmaking role, where he has thrived, scoring seven goals and adding five assists in 2023. All seven of Rusnák’s goals have been game-winners, including the decisive strike that sealed Seattle’s Game 3 win over Dallas on November 10.
Seattle’s greatest strength is its team's defense. No MLS team conceded fewer regular-season goals than the 32 allowed by the Sounders. Their back line has remained the same for practically the entire season: Nouhou at left-back, Yeimar and Jackson Ragen at center-back, and Alex Roldan at right-back.
Alex Roldan, whose older brother Cristian usually starts at right wing, will be tasked with trying to contain Bouanga (whose 36 goals in all competitions are the second-most in MLS history in a single calendar year). “We will certainly help Alex as much as we can,” head coach Brian Schmetzer said this week. “That’s gonna be one of the featured duels.”
The Black & Gold Will Win If
It can withstand Seattle’s early home-field energy, settle in, and play the match on its own terms. Scoring the game’s first goal wouldn’t hurt; LAFC has lost just once in 25 games, in all competitions, when it has found the back the back of the net first. Another key: transcending Seattle’s cold temperatures and artificial turf— two big reasons that the Sounders are currently tied with the New England Revolution for the longest home unbeaten streak in MLS playoff history (19).
Sounders Can Win If
they can sustain their momentum following a two-week break. The club is unbeaten in 11 of its last 12 matches and has limited LAFC to one goal at Lumen Field in their last three matchups. In addition to Alex Roldan’s defending duties, he often pushes forward to participate in the attack with his brother and fellow forwards Morris, Rusnák, and Léo Chú. How often the younger Roldan does this on Sunday will be a compelling piece within the overall match.