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Heavyweight tilt against LAFC presents important test for Sounders

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There's nothing like a return home to bounce back from a tough defeat.

Coming off a narrow, hard-fought 1-0 loss to FC Cincinnati on the road last weekend, the Seattle Sounders are back at Lumen Field in MLS Matchday 4, this time against another one of the league's projected top clubs: Reigning MLS Cup champion LAFC (1:00 p.m. PT; FOX, Watch free on Apple TV; iHeart Radio, El Rey 1360AM | TICKETS).

"Very big game. Defending champs. Times two, [they won] Supporters' Shield," Sounders Head Coach Brian Schmetzer said this week.

"Steve [Cherundolo] has obviously got a very talented team. They're good in transition, they'll catch you, they're good if you don't deny interior passes. [Carlos] Vela is still a tremendous player. [Giorgio] Chiellini gets better with age, like fine wine. They've got a good squad."

In a bit of a role-reversal from the 2022 season, Seattle are catching LAFC while the Southern California side is in the midst of juggling Concacaf Champions League obligations, where the Black & Gold just advanced to the tournament quarterfinals.

Seattle knows as well as anyone the difficulties of that particular balancing act, and the resulting fixture congestion. In LAFC's case, Saturday's match will be their fourth in a 10-day span, though Schmetzer said that won't change his approach from any other home match.

"I haven't messaged it like that. I've messaged it as: Look, they're going to have a lot of miles on them and we want to continue, regardless of LAFC – whoever the opponent is, when they come to Lumen Field, we want to play like this," said Schmetzer. "So, whether that's LAFC coming off four games in 10 days, or whether that's RSL or Colorado or whoever the next opponent is, I mean, we're going to try and still play upbeat, up-tempo at home."

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Midfielder Cristian Roldan agreed that bringing maximum intensity from the opening kickoff will be paramount to capitalize on whatever fitness advantage Seattle might have.

Regardless of what lineup Cherundolo fields, LAFC are a deep and talented group – another good early-season measuring stick as the Sounders look to recapture their dynamic form of the opening two weeks of the season. 

"We kind of felt that last year," said Roldan. "So intensity is the starting point for us and they're a team that doesn't want to sit in a low block for too long. So if we can make them defend a little bit more I think we'll be in a good spot. 

"It's another opportunity to send a statement out to the rest of the league, to ourselves, that we can compete with the best on a weekly basis," he added. "I feel like Cincinnati's going to be up there in the standings come July or August, and LAFC will be too. So this is another opportunity to show that we belong up there just as much as they do."

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