LAFC were the presumptive favorites, a Supporters’ Shield-winning side that set the record for regular-season points (72) and goal differential (48). But behind a brace from Raul Ruidiaz and a star showing from Nicolas Lodeiro, those accomplishments mattered little in the end.
“They finished our season last year and we’ve all watched that game many, many times,” LAFC head coach Bob Bradley said. “Disappointed to not push the game harder at times. It was a game we weren’t as sharp as we needed to be. We made a few mistakes and paid the price. As good as we’ve been the last couple of years that's always the challenge when you step on the field.”
That leaves LAFC looking for revenge, according to Seattle midfielder Cristian Roldan, in Monday’s Round of 16 matchup at the MLS is Back Tournament (11 pm ET | FS1, TUDN, FOX Deportes, UniMás; TSN, TVAS in Canada). It’s a win-or-go-home situation, much like last year, with the victor inching one game closer to the Aug. 11 final at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
Roldan added that LAFC have flaws, referencing their seven goals against in Group F. They respect the threat Bradley’s team poses, Roldan said, but last year’s win when “all the odds were against us” in a hostile environment instills confidence as well.
“We have to be ready for this emotion of the game and for what LAFC brings,” Roldan said. “They’re a team that attacks really well and complicates things for all the numbers they throw into the attack. We have to be ready for this and then play well on the counter because opponents have scored a lot against LAFC [in this tournament] and we have to be ready for that counterattack.”
LAFC midfielder Eduard Atuesta also shared his perspective, namely that Seattle will look to go blow-for-blow. That could mean the Sounders focus on not allowing forwards Diego Rossi and Brian Rodriguez to gallop into open space, or look to jam up the midfield.
“What we expect from Seattle is that they’ll want to muck up our game, to be physical,” Atuesta said. “They will want to close our spaces and begin to attack the spaces that we might leave in the back when we’re attacking. We have to be careful about this and play with the personality that we know how to play with, without fear but with respect that they’re a great team.”
As these two Western Conference powers gear up, there’s perhaps more than a quarterfinal spot on the line. LAFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye didn’t quite want to call it a revenge match, but that 2019 postseason defeat still lingers.
“Revenge, yeah sure. People can call it that,” Kaye said. “To me it’s just another opportunity to win. If you think too much into revenge you leave yourself open to harm. We need to go in with the right mentality, try to take care of the little things and push our football forward."