Sounders, LAFC prepare for another playoff battle

Carlos Vela is the lone player remaining on the Los Angeles FC roster from the franchise’s first game in March 2018, a 1-0 victory at Seattle.

Vela and LAFC will return to Lumen Field on Sunday night for an MLS Western Conference semifinal match.

The Sounders are 4-0-3 at home against LAFC since that initial meeting and have twice knocked the Black & Gold out of the playoffs.

“The best moment was the first game in the history of the club, when we went to Seattle and we won the game,” Vela said. “It was the start of something special.

“Of course, I also have bad memories of when they took us out two times in the playoffs (in 2019 and 2020). But it’s not all about good or bad moments. (It’s about) enjoying the moment, (doing) your best when you have the chance. And Sunday we have a really good chance to enjoy and go to Seattle to win another game.”

Though Seattle has its traditional Cascadia Cup rivals in Portland and Vancouver — a series that dates back to the mid-1970s in the old North American Soccer League — LAFC has quickly joined the mix.

“It feels like a rivalry in the sense that it is two of the biggest clubs in the league. We have high ambitions, high goals, and so do they,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said.

The forecast for Sunday night calls for temperatures in the upper 30s and lower 40s and the chance of rain.

“We’re going to come after them. Raining, windy, turf; we want to get on top of them early. We’re going to come out on the front foot,” Schmetzer said. “If we can shut down their transition moments, then I think we’re going to have a good result.”

Third-seeded LAFC swept Vancouver in the best-of-three opening round as Denis Bouanga, the league’s Golden Boot Award winner for most goals in the regular season, scored three times.

The second-seeded Sounders needed three games to oust FC Dallas.

Because of the international break, the Sounders have had two weeks off since the opening round and LAFC has had three.

“We don’t need to watch any more film because in those past two weeks that we’ve been off, we’ve watched enough film of them,” said Sounders midfielder Albert Rusnak, who scored the lone goal in the series finale against FC Dallas. “We’re prepared.”

LAFC leads the all-time series between the teams 8-5-4. They tied 0-0 in Seattle on March 18, then LAFC won 1-0 at home on June 21 on Mateusz Bogusz’s deflected goal in the opening minute.