Eduard Atuesta Dribbling Defender Roldan LAFC vs SEA 201011 IMG

2020 MLS Cup Playoffs Preview | LAFC at Seattle Sounders 11/24/20

MLS Cup Playoffs Round One

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

7:30 p.m. PT

TV: ESPN, ESPN Deportes

RADIO: ESPN LA 710AM, ESPN App, KFWB 980 AM

 

We’re finally here. After a tumultuous 2020 MLS season that saw lengthy stoppages of play and unprecedented challenges as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the time that we have all been waiting for has finally arrived - the MLS Cup Playoffs. LAFC will face a familiar foe in reigning MLS Cup Champion Seattle Sounders FC in Round One on Tuesday night, a fitting opportunity for LAFC to avenge its defeat at their hands in the 2019 Western Conference Championship.

"The challenge going into the playoffs knowing that we start with Seattle, who knocked us out last year. We understand when you get to big games, how concentration and small details count for so much,” said Bradley. “You need guys to step up in these games and make a difference with their play. So the focus is just on those things. I think the response of the group, the level of excitement, all those things are at a really high level right now."

These two sides have already faced each other four times across all competitions this year, and the momentum has swung wildly from club to club. In their first meeting this year, LAFC pummeled the Sounders 4-1 in the Round of 16 of the MLS is Back Tournament, sending them home early. However, Seattle clawed back two victories in a row in their next matchups.

In their last match against each other on Oct. 11, with LAFC missing four major pieces out on international duty and suffering two early injuries in the first half, the Black & Gold’s bench stepped up and produced a big 3-1 win behind two goals and an assist from Danny Musosvki.

Throughout the unprecedented challenges of the 2020 season, the Sounders managed to keep strong form throughout the year, losing only one of their last six matches. In a role reversal from last year’s Western Conference Championship matchup it is the Sounders who find themselves seeded second in the conference and home at Lumen Field to LAFC’s seven-seed.

This next matchup in the MLS Cup Playoffs will be different. Both sides will have to put the challenges of the regular season in the rearview mirror and focus on the unique single elimination tournament.

“You know that in playoff games that type of [high level] intensity is absolutely necessary. That when teams are playing at the end of the year when it's knockout style, these are the small details that make a difference,” Bradley said.

 

SEATTLE IN DEPTH

LAFC has become quite familiar with Seattle in 2020. They are a veteran squad with experienced difference-makers. The havoc that midfielder Nicolás Lodeiro is able to create with his passing ability to the dangerous Jordan Morris and Raul Ruidiaz will be LAFC’s primary concern. But for this match, it is important to be aware of the skill that the Sounders have exhibited in their game planning for LAFC. Since the victory at LAFC in last year’s playoffs, Seattle has shifted to playing “around” the Black & Gold’s strengths, staying away from the middle of the pitch and LAFC’s excellent controlling midfielders. This shift in strategy has caused difficulties and disrupted LAFC’s game flow. It will be interesting to watch and see if Seattle employs the same tactics on Tuesday.

 

GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY  

The Black & Gold was dealt a another tough blow with the recent announcement that all four LAFC players out on international duty had contracted the COVID-19 virus and will be unavailable for the Seattle matchup. The Club confirmed that defender Diego Palacios, midfielder José Cifuentes and forwards Diego Rossi and Brian Rodríguez have tested positive for COVID-19 while with the Ecuador and Uruguay National Teams.

Despite being forced to play without the 2020 MLS Golden Boot winner in Rossi, Bradley has been adamant that the Club is ready to move forward with the players that have been on the ground training every day.

"What we've tried to do in this whole period is to work with the idea that the group we have every day is the group that's playing against Seattle," Bradley said. "We always knew the possibility would exist between quarantine or unfortunately positive tests that we might not have some of the guys that traveled. But I really give a big shout-out to the guys here, just the way they come in every day, you can tell how excited everybody is for this match."

 

LAFC WILL WIN IF

The Club is able to disrupt Seattle playing through their fullbacks. The midfield must be disciplined with their shape, without losing sight of the strength of Seattle, their ability to provide full converge, win the ball and quickly move up the pitch. In a single elimination, winner-take-all scenario, it is intensity and focus that is of paramount importance. 

 

SEATTLE CAN WIN IF…

They are able to get Lodeiro on the ball. If he finds a way to play balls through the LAFC lines to his dangerous forwards, it will make for a long night for the Black & Gold.

 

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT…

·      Even though the two clubs have already faced each other four times this season, this will be the first time 2019 MLS MVP and LAFC star Carlos Vela will take the pitch against Seattle this year.  

·      Much has been made this season about the lack of training time MLS clubs have had between matches in this compressed season. Both LAFC and Seattle will have had almost two full weeks of training before kicking off on Tuesday, a rarity in this unique season..

·      LAFC will be missing four major contributors coming off of international duty, but it looks like the Sounders will be negatively affected too. At the moment it appears that the Sounders will be without Xavi Arreaga, but will likely have Raúl Ruidíaz and Gustav Svensson available.

·      Bob Bradley has not committed to a starter in goal yet, as Pablo Sisniega is recovering from an injury and Kenneth Vermeer has started the last three matches.  

Topics: