The big day is almost here, and Los Angeles Football Club will open Banc of California Stadium on Sunday with a meeting against their first repeat opponent.
The Seattle Sounders enter the new digs with the worst record in the Western Conference, albeit coming off their first league win over the season. Want to learn more about the Sounders since LAFC’s triumph on opening day? Our old friend Dave Clark of Sounder at Heart is back to answer our questions. Many thanks as always to Dave for taking the time to answer our questions!
Angels on Parade asks Sounder at Heart:
1. So how’s it gone for the Sounders since they met LAFC on opening weekend?
It’s all gone wrong. The season started with three straight league matches where the Seattle Sounders were shown red. One of those resulted in a two-match suspension too. Even counting the CCL, the record isn’t great. Seattle is 3-5-1, -2 goal difference. Injuries have hit every line of play and every quality level. The list of the wounded is a team capable of challenging for an MLS Cup. The Sounders roster without them challenges for the Wooden Spoon.
Even healthy there is a need for more in the attack. The forward selection is down to Will Bruin and two midfielders who can sometimes play up top (Clint Dempsey and Lamar Neagle). If Seattle wants to challenge for the Shield they need to replace Jordan Morris by May 1. They can probably still be a playoff team without him, as long as fortune favors their forward crew.
2. I’ve been starting to float this in my mind and I’m wondering what you think - is this Cristian Roldan’s team now? I know it takes 11 guys and all, but he seems like the linchpin and the person who is picking up a lot of the load these days.
Not yet. Roldan the Elder won out in the Sounder at Heart 2017 rankings, but in many ways that was because of injury as much as consistency in Roldan’s performances. Cristian’s strong health, never-ending engine and ability to change games both in attack and defense is incredible. He will be a top three player in any specific game, but usually not the key to victory. Clint Dempsey, Nicolas Lodeiro and Osvaldo Alonso are still more capable of changing a match than Cristian. Each can fade away. Each has also worn the armband more often than the 22-year-old.
Here’s the thing. Roldan belongs in that conversation now. At 22, and someone drafted out of a local college, he is a vocal leader on and off the field. His play earned him three caps and four bench appearances with the full United States National Team. His cap hit is tiny. It could be argued that there has been no better draft pick in the last three years than Roldan the Elder (Larin, Harrison, Vincent belong on the short list).
Roldan is cheaper and is clearly in love with the region. He’s chosen to call this home, and in no way is he pandering. He adores the Seattle area and while he may want to challenge himself in Europe, the place for an American 6/8/10 hybrid out in more significant leagues can be hard to find. Cristian could wind up a millionaire if he stays with the Sounders, a one-club man, and a captain of captains.
3. Which player has been a surprise (good or bad) the past six weeks for Seattle?
An outsider might be surprised that Roman Torres has been bad, but that’s now an early season expectation for the Panamanian. Dempsey’s lack of scoring might be a surprise, but it’s hard to score when you are suspended. Many would expect Lodeiro to have assists and then you remember that he has no Morris, often no Dempsey and only young HGPs outside of Will Bruin. The disappointments are both plentiful and completely understandable. They are also entering the phase in the season when they will perform.
The biggest surprise on the positive side is Alex Roldan. Ignore the last name and you have a high-effort winger who threads a pass decently. He may have been drafted early, due to familiarity, but Roldan the Younger is a valuable asset who can contribute across the band of three (4-2-3-1) both by pressing high and attacking the goal.
4. Prediction for Sunday?
You can read my answers to Dave’s questions over at Sounder at Heart.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!