It’s a Monday matchnight, as Los Angeles Football Club and the Seattle Sounders will square off in the Round of 16 of the MLS is Back Tournament. To gear up for the game, we talked to Mark Kastner of SB Nation’s Sounders site Sounder at Heart about his team before the big one. Many thanks to Mark for taking the time to answer my questions!
Angels on Parade asks Sounder at Heart:
1. First, it’s been a weird several months. How are you doing, and how are the Sounders doing?
I’m well! Thanks for asking. As for the Sounders, it’s a typical summer for them. Some disappointing results early in the season and there’s injuries to some key players. Nothing new really....Except we’re in the middle of a pandemic, went four months without MLS, and there’s this tournament happening in Orlando. It’s about this time of year during a normal season that things start to click for Seattle, so we’ll see what that means for the match against LAFC.
2. Seattle’s group stage was pretty uneven, but ended with a rousing win. Was that more a product of a good matchup, or the Sounders figuring stuff out and clicking?
Seattle’s group stage performance is a microcosm of seasons past. Slow and frustrating start. Empathic and strong finish. I won’t lie to you and say that the match against Vancouver was anything other than one of the most talented teams in MLS against a bad team missing 1/3rd of their roster. It’s hard to draw conclusions based on anything in this tournament, but especially from that game. Did things come together for Seattle and have they clicked into gear? Maybe! I sure hope so. But it’s also equally as possible that they destroyed a team down on their luck. We’ll find out against LAFC, I suppose.
3. Who’s new for the Sounders, and how are they doing? Anyone for LAFC folks to keep a special eye on?
Seattle made two big additions in the offseason. They signed Joao Paulo as the team’s 3rd DP, a classic Brazilian No. 8 who is deadly on the ball given his vision and range of passing. He’s also hurt and hasn’t played a single game during this tournament. The other addition they made was Yeimar Gómez Andrade, who is a highly touted Colombian centerback with over 100 appearances in Argentina’s top flight. He’s on a TAM contract. He picked up a leg injury against Chicago and won’t play against LAFC.
Shane O’Neill has probably been the surprise signing of the offseason. He’s played in every game this season for Seattle, even pre-pandemic. Go figure.
Another interesting wrinkle for the Sounders this season is they appear to be focusing on developing their young HGPs. In seasons past, the Sounders bench has been filled with veteran MLS presence, but that’s not the case anymore. You’ll see a bunch of youngsters on Seattle’s roster tonight. One to keep an eye on is Handwalla Bwana, who is in his 3rd season. He’s a technical winger with a bit of pace about him. The Sounders have been needing a decent 4th attacker behind Raul Ruidiaz, Nicolas Lodeiro, and Jordan Morris for some time now, and Bwana’s staking his claim on that position so far during this tournament.
Obviously, LAFC folks should keep an eye on Jordan Morris. He’s good. And he’s having an incredible tournament.
You can find my answers to Mark’s questions here.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.