LAFC are back in action after a long break on Saturday, and the first game back is a doozy, against the Seattle Sounders. Once again, I checked in with my good friend Dave Clark, of SB Nation’s Seattle soccer site Sounder at Heart, to get a sense of how things are looking for the opponent. Thanks, as always, to Dave for taking the time to answer my questions!
Angels on Parade asks Sounder at Heart:
1. The Sounders did it, winning the Champions League. Are they in a hangover or have they found their form in the league?
They’re in form. The status of perpetual contender has resumed, with the Sounders going 4-2-0, +5 in league play since winning the CCL. They tested the top 13 or so players in the week after the win (losing to Dallas and a non-advancement draw to San Jose in the Open Cup). Then those same players just took an entire week off during the 16-day break.
Now basically on a game-a-week pattern and playing six of seven at home the Sounders should charge up the standings. There’s a lot of ground to make up, but that schedule should help quite a bit.
2. Nico Lodeiro had a muted year or so, but he’s been on fire so far this year. Is he back to something approaching his best, and if so, can he continue it for the duration of the season?
He may even be better than his best. He sits a little deeper than his 5th place MVP season, but his goal producing numbers are on par with that, while providing more in defense. One way to make up for the loss of an MVP finalist (João Paulo) is to have one or both of the previous two finalists perform back at that level — Nico is back.
But, can it last? That’s impossible to answer. His knee issues seemed to be chronic. In 2021 he was irregularly available. There were surgeries. Can an old for an athlete player really heal and be better late in their career?
3. Given the fixture congestion, injuries and international absences, who’s been an unsung hero so far this season for the Sounders?
Obed Vargas, he’s just 16, as the announcers say every other touch. He’s also at least an average No. 8 already. Mostly a metronome, Obed is at his best looking laterally for the Best XI talents surrounding him.
Vargas can be prone to hard fouls, but I think he does this with intent. How else to earn the respect of veteran attackers? As he ages I expect the yellows to be less frequent and the folks earned to increase as well. He’s not getting respect from the referees yet.
He’s just 16, which we covered, but like the announcers I need to say it to remind myself that João Paulo’s replacement, performing at least league average on a team targeting at least two trophies, is probably going to get better and possibly the best Academy product from an organization that already lifted up two USMNT mainstays.
You can find my answers to Dave’s questions over at Sounder at Heart.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.