Seattle Sounders preach respect, not fear with LAFC rematch set

Seattle Sounders vs LAFC action - Sept. 18, 2020

Last season, the Seattle Sounders put an end to LAFC's record-breaking, Supporters' Shield winning campaign with a 3-1 victory at Banc of California Stadium in the Western Conference Final that shocked MLS. 

Just one season later, the sides are set for another postseason clash as the results on Decision Day presented by AT&T will pit the No. 2 seed Sounders against No. 7 seed LAFC in Round One of the 2020 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. It's a matchup that carries plenty of intrigue with it, and LAFC head coach Bob Bradley said that atoning for last year's defeat is something that is certainly on his team's mind on his postgame video call following LAFC's 1-1 draw against the Portland Timbers on Sunday.

"That's a real opportunity to think back to last year and the way the season ended with a chance to see what we can do to even things up," Bradley said.

Highlights: Seattle Sounders 4, San Jose Earthquakes 1

A win for Seattle might not carry quite the same weight as it did last year, when the Sounders strode into the Banc and put on one of the best performances in club history in a 3-1 victory, with LAFC not really considered the same type of juggernaut in a season that was riddled with injuries, including to last year's MVP Carlos Vela

But Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan said his team isn't looking at LAFC as drastically diminished in quality from last year. With Vela returning from an MCL injury that cost him much of the season and LAFC as a whole picking up its form during the stretch run of the season, Roldan said the Sounders are still expecting a team that is still one of the most talented opponents in the conference, and will be intent on settling the score.

"I think we expect a tough opponent," Roldan said. "They're certainly not a seventh seed in our eyes. We have to respect them as well as play them without fear. I think with those two characteristics that we have, we can take them on. It's going to be a tough game. We can't be complacent initially in the game. It's playoff time. We need big players to reach that next level and I think great teams go from a good regular season team to a great playoff time. We need that extra level from the whole team. That's extremely important, because LAFC is an extremely tough opponent and we're not going to take them lightly."

Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer also said that he's plenty aware of the revenge storyline that will surround the matchup, adding that he's hoping his team can draw on some of the experience from last year's victory in terms of executing the gameplan in high-stakes circumstances.

HIGHLIGHTS: 2019 Western Conference Final

"We were just talking about it in the coach's office saying: Well, you've got to beat the best if you want to be the best," Schmetzer said. "So obviously LAFC have revenge on their mind. They're going to want to come up here and do what we did to them down there. So it's going to be a very spirited game. 

"LAFC is going to play the same way whether they have guys missing on international duty, whether they have guys on international duty, whether they play young kids or old guys, they're going to play the same way," he continued. "Bob's going to play his style. So we're going to prepare for LAFC that plays an up-tempo game. They have Vela back. So they're going to press, they're a good attacking team, their attacking movements we know very well. On that day, the team that executes the way they want to play, that's the team that's going to come out as the winner. That's what happened for us last year. We knew what LA was about, we scouted them, we had all the tape. Our team on that day just executed the gameplan to perfection and that's why we won down there.

"So this game is the same, we approach it exactly the same. We're going to watch the film, the players are going to know their assignments, and then it's up to them to make sure they do the job on the field.