Welcome to MLS One to Watch, a weekly segment previewing the most intriguing game in MLS each weekend. This week’s game is LAFC visiting the Seattle Sounders, with kickoff at 3:00 PM ET on ABC.
A Resurgent Seattle
The Sounders neglected league results early in the year while pursuing the first-ever MLS Concacaf Champions League championship. Seattle was second-to-last in the Western Conference after the triumph, seven points below the playoff line. Since then, the club has won four of its last five, outscoring opponents 10-3.
The winning streak, combined with playing some of its game in hand, has seen Seattle rise to seventh in the West, good for a playoff spot. However, only one of the Sounders’ five opponents is currently a playoff team (Charlotte FC). LAFC sits top of the league right now, allowing Seattle a prime opportunity to remind everyone that Lumen Field still hosts an MLS powerhouse.
As usual, striker Raúl Ruidíaz leads the way, with five goals in eight matches so far (six starts). While he has found his form, and it being a large part of the team’s rise, others have been less productive.
Off-season DP signing Albert Rusnak has no goals and just one assist despite playing in 12 games, 10 of them being starts. With Real Salt Lake in 2021 Rusnak hit double figures in both goals and assists. Kellyn Rowe also has no goals through 12 matches, registering six starts and only two assists.
LAFC Looks To Continue Impressive Road Form
The Black and Gold have been solid away from home this year, having won four out of six games. Seattle is one of the tougher places to play, as a combination of atmosphere, Sounder consistency, and NFL turf frequently eats up even the best in the league.
LAFC has been led this season once again by Carlos Vela, who leads the team in both goals (six) and assists (three). However, only one of Vela’s goals has come on the road.
Vela will need help as the season progresses, however, as the team’s second-leading scorer is a defender in Ryan Hollingshead. While any head coach is ecstatic to have defenders contribute goals at the rate Hollingshead does, Steve Cherundolo is likely hoping for more from his attack to keep his side on Supporters Shield pace. Last year’s TAM signing Cristian Arango is well behind his normal goal-scoring pace, as he has just three goals in 14 games after contributing 15 in 17 matches last season.
All Eyes On ABC
Saturday’s match is just the fourth of ten MLS games to be broadcast on ABC this season. Last year’s ABC broadcasts brought in nearly 200,000 more viewers on average compared to matches on ESPN. Viewership numbers on these platforms are now less important as MLS has already secured a new media rights deal, but the game provides an opportunity to test if increased visibility results in more views.
Main Image Credits: Embed from Getty Images