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Seattle Sounders Deliver LAFC Clinical 3-1 Defeat, Advance to MLS Finals

Updated: Oct 30, 2019

There's a certain advantage to being the underdog, especially in a big game. No one expects you to win, all the pressure is on the better team, and if you manage to perform half as well, you're heaped with praise. Nothing to lose, only everything to gain. Which may be why the visiting Seattle Sounders came out with a dominating performance against LAFC, the massive favorites to win the Western Conference Final of the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs on Tuesday, Oct. 29, and handed them a crushing 3-1 defeat.

Held at the Banc of California Stadium, LAFC notched the first goal thanks to a cleverly taken free kick by Eduard Atuesta, but it was Seattle that took command of the game early on and continued to dictate tone and pace. From the first whistle, Seattle kept their opponents on their heels, testing LAFC's backline (where communication issues abound), and taking every opportunity to knock LAFC's attacking trio to the ground. On numerous occasions one could see a Sounders player pummeling Diego Rossi, or Carlos Vela, or Brian Rodriguez to the grass. But the referee was in no mood to budge on questionable fouls, nor entertain two potential handball PKs, making the match the kind of chippy, physical game LAFC dislike.

But beyond the officiating, it was decisively Seattle's game through and through. The Sounders' number 9 Ruidiaz was the powerful standout of the night, and in combination with captain Nicolas Lodeiro set up two goals within four minutes, making it 1-2 going into the second half.

There were moments when LAFC looked within comeback distance, with Mark-Anthony Kaye starting for an injured Latif Blessing, and Adama Diomande subbed in to add some fire to LAFC's attacking efforts. Second half possession numbers were in LAFC's favor, but even still the Sounders outperformed both tactically and technically. Defensively they played compact and discipline, denying those dangerous LAFC through balls and taking advantage of LAFC's high press to quickly counterattack. There were a handful of 1v1 breakaways that could have easily made the scoreline 4 or 5 Seattle. When centerback Walker Zimmerman mishandled a header in the 64th minute to gave Ruidiaz another look at goal, it was all the Peruvian striker needed to make it 1-3 Seattle.

In all fairness, LAFC's defensive problems often start with complacency from the attacking and midfield line; but it was more true that Seattle beat and outplayed their opponents than it was LAFC giving away the game through error . Ruidiaz was on a different level with his dribbling and finishing, and the Sounders energized defense went in hard and strong, challenging every ball, and using their physicality to shut down one of the best attacking trios in the league.

LAFC, the huge favorites to advance, haver never been beaten by Seattle, and will no doubt be disappointed with this failed run for the MLS Cup. Nonetheless, it's worth noting the team is only its sophomore year, and has already broken multiple season records and earned the 2019 Supporters' Shield.

Next up, the Seattle Sounders face the winners of the Eastern Conference Finals (Atlanta United v. Toronto FC) on Sunday, Nov. 10 for the MLS Cup Finals.

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