Dominant Defense vs. High-Flying Offense: Sounders take on LAFC in Western Conference Semifinal showdown

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It’s not everyday the top defensive team in Major League Soccer takes on one of the strongest attacking units in a single-elimination, make-or-break match.

The defensively sound Seattle Sounders host the high-flying attack of LAFC in the Western Conference Semifinals Sunday, Nov. 26.

“It kind of matches well,” said midfielder Albert Rusnák. “I’m expecting a tough game.”

On the Sounders side, the team led MLS in regular season shutouts this season with 14, while also recording two more clean sheets in two of their three postseason matches played thus far. 

And with players like Yeimar holding down the fort at center back with his 73 regular season interceptions and forward Jordan Morris leading the pressure up front, it’s been difficult for opposition to break through Seattle’s backline. 

“We've had so much success this year because defensively we've been so so good,” said defender Alex Roldan. “We're all putting in really hard shifts to make sure that teams don't get their shots and clear opportunities.”

These rigorous defensive shifts will be vital on Sunday against LAFC’s talented front three of Dénis Bouanga, Carlos Vela and Cristian Olivera.

“They're a very fluid group up there,” said Roldan. “They can interchange easily and play different positions and so I definitely think that we have our work cut out for us.”

LAFC totaled a whopping 54 goals during the regular season, with 20 of them coming from the league-leading scorer, Bouanga. 

It’ll be up to the collective Sounders squad to read plays early and focus on defensive decision making in order to prevent any potential chances from the Los Angeles side. 

“When [LAFC] gets under pressure, they're not afraid to go long, and they have speed up top,” said Rusnák. “So putting pressure on the ball will be important, but then being organized at the back and kind of predicting the long ball will be just as vital.”

LAFC’s defense is also something to be accounted for with players like center back Aaron Long leading the backline, but if the Sounders can successfully shut them down in all areas of the pitch, they too, have strength up top to cause havoc in the attack.

“We're a pretty balanced team,” said Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. “We are good defensively, but our offense is getting a little better. “It’ll come down to whichever team makes the play in the critical moment.”

A challenging match for both teams is inevitable, but with home field advantage on the Sounders’ side, they are hopeful the fans will push them toward victory.

“We're at home, and we'll have a lot of fans behind us that we’ll feed off,” said Rusnák. “And that’s going to be crucial.”

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