Western Conference Finals: LAFC host Seattle Sounders

LAFC Sounders
SEATTLE, WA — APRIL 28: Seattle Sounders defender Brad Smith (11) makes contact with Los Angeles FC forward Latif Blessing (7) during the MLS regular season match between Los Angeles FC and Seattle Sounders FC on April 28, 2019, at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, WA.(Photo by Joseph Weiser/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

Preview — Not all rivalries are the same. Some, are built from pure disdain of your opponent, others are about respect, with one side feeling overlooked. However, there are some rivalries that are just plain nasty.

Not hate, as much as it is assuring mutual destruction. While the last round featured two teams that despise each other, the Western Conference Finals sees LAFC hosting the Seattle Sounders, in what has become one of the most physical matchups in MLS.

LAFC Host Rival, Seattle Sounders, In Physical, Western Conference Finals Matchup

Organically created, this rivalry was born from the Sounders finding themselves on the wrong side of history not once, but twice, at the hands of the black and gold. In 2018, hosting the then expansion side, the Sounders faced LAFC in the visitor’s first-ever MLS match, losing 0-1. They would face off again, this time at the very first home game for LAFC, again, the Sounders fell, 1-0.

Even then, the physicality was potent, with both teams racking up fouls, and cards. If last round for LAFC was all about the fireworks and goals, this match will be all about keeping their head, and playing smart.

Playing Without Worry

LAFC completed two firsts last round, winning their first postseason match, as well as, and perhaps more importantly, beat their rival, Galaxy, for the first time. It was a shadow that sulked over LAFC for the better part of two years, adding fuel to the ridiculous narrative of them not being able to win a big game. However, that is now in the past, as LAFC look forward to what has been their mission all along, winning the MLS Cup.

Of course, if there is one thing last season taught us, it’s that no team is to be overlooked, especially in the postseason. However, LAFC will come into Tuesday night knowing they have all the momentum in the world. They overcame their toughest opponent, on the biggest stage, and saw a two-goal return from super substitute Adama Diomande. In addition, MVP frontrunner, Carlos Vela, doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. While it’s always nice to have motivation for a big match, it’s even better when you come into a big match relaxed. The most dangerous LAFC, is one that has nothing to worry about, other than playing the game their way.

Playing Hard, And Smart

To say these two teams love a physical match is a massive understatement. A match between these two is like filling a house full of baking soda, and pouring vinegar down the chimney. In just two matches this year, they combined for 55 fouls, nine yellow cards and two red cards. Luckily for LAFC, a lot of the discipline tends to go against Seattle. However, LAFC can ride the edge of emotions themselves, especially with so much at stake.

With emotions bound to run high, it will be important for the home side to stay focused on keeping all 11 men on the pitch for the duration of the match. No doubt Seattle will use their vast experience in the postseason to their advantage, having made the playoffs every year of their existence. However, if there is one thing Los Angeles has proven in the previous meetings, it’s that they can dish it, just as well as they take it.

Return of Mark-Anthony Kaye?

One glaring absence from the latest LA Derby was midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye. Having sustained a hamstring injury while on international duty, he was held out, with Lee Nguyen, taken his place in the starting XI. Kaye should be healthy and ready to return Tuesday night. It couldn’t be at a better time. Not just one of the better defenders in the middle of the pitch, Kaye provides a physical presence that is always welcome in a match like this.

While Nguyen was able to come in and do well, the biggest affect of Kaye’s absence was felt by Eduard Atuesta. Normally a puppet master, he was relegated back to his old defensive ways. With opposing midfielder Nicolás Lodeiro in form, Kaye’s support in defending the middle of the park will be warmly welcomed. In addition, a more attack-minded Atuesta, could improve on an attack that netted five last time out.

Prediction

LAFC continue to make The Banc a fortress. One of the more incredible scenes of the postseason had to be Diomande getting a goal whilst in the middle of a cloud of black smoke. It was art.

Another home match means continuing to feed off the most energetic supporters in the MLS. Expect the match to be the physical styled affair we are used to between these clubs, as well as the typical low scoring outing. LAFC will continue their search for silverware after Tuesday night, as they quiet the Sounders 2-1, en route to the MLS Cup Finals.

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