Los Angeles Football Club will play the Seattle Sounders for the fifth and final time on Tuesday, in the 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs. While we’re well familiar with Seattle given all the previous meetings, it never hurts to check in with someone who covers LAFC’s upcoming opponent, so I spoke once again with Mark Kastner of SB Nation’s Sounders site Sounder at Heart to get the lowdown. Thanks very much to Mark for taking the time to answer my questions, again!
Angels on Parade asks Sounder at Heart:
1. First things first: Who’s going to miss the big game for the Sounders, and who might slot in for them?
So, I think the Sounders will just be missing Xavier Arreaga on Tuesday. Of course, everything could change but Arreaga played with Ecuador over the international break and had a teammate test positive for COVID-19, so he has to be quarantined. Brad Smith is back in training and could feature, same with Joevin Jones. As of now there’s no new injuries for Seattle.
Shane O’Neill is the most likely person to slot in for Arreaga, but O’Neill’s performances lately have not been very good. I would not be at all surprised if Brian Schmetzer throws in Roman Torres for this matchup. The Sounders head coach loves his veterans and Torres was brought back this summer for much needed CB depth.
2. The Sounders were red-hot for much of the summer, and then kind of sputtered a bit down the stretch. Why was that, and will that possibly play a role in the playoff game?
So two things happened at the same time to kill the Sounders momentum. The first international break a little over a month ago saw Seattle without Gustav Svensson, Arreaga, and Raul Ruidiaz. That break coincided with Seattle having a rash of injuries in key positions, which led to the same starting XI being trotted out every 4 days. Players got tired and that meant the Sounders couldn’t be at their best. AND THEN Ruidiaz tested positive for COVID-19.
It was a trying month but they got through it.
3. What’s the objective this season? Is it “MLS Cup or bust” again? Is it to make it through the year relatively unscathed? Is it to beat LAFC and then know you’ve beaten them (I kid, I kid)?
The Sounders have a goal of winning (at least) a trophy every season. The beginning of the year, if you can remember, they went all in on trying to win the Champions League and that was a spectacular failure. The MLS is Back tournament was really weird, and also another failure because the Sounders got waxed by LAFC. They were in the hunt for the Supporters’ Shield/Regular Season Asterisk Champs but then the answer to my last question happened. So, all of that to say, there’s one trophy left to win and that’s MLS Cup.
If 2020 were a normal season, I would be inclined to say that Seattle has underperformed up until this point. But, it’s not a normal season and I think they’ve managed their circumstances very well. Saying “MLS or Bust!” would be very harsh, but I kinda think that’s the goal. Do I think heads will roll if the Sounders get knocked out of the playoffs? No I don’t. Do I think the Sounders are going to take it very seriously? Absolutely.
This is a very long winded and diplomatic way of answering your question instead of just offering up a shrug emoji. I like Seattle’s chances of making the final. But I could also see them getting bounced early. I genuinely don’t know what to expect and that kind of makes me excited.
You can find my answers to Mark’s questions at Sounder at Heart.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.