The Seattle Sounders are visiting the Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday (5:30 p.m. PT; ESPN, listen on SoundersFC.com) in the first leg of the Western Conference Semifinals of the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs. Here are three matchups to watch:
Sounders center back Chad Marshall vs. Whitecaps forward Fredy Montero
Fredy Montero is the Seattle Sounders’ all-time leading goalscorer, but he’ll line up as an opponent for the fourth time this year on Sunday. He has three goals in as many matches against his former club and led Vancouver with 13 tallies this season. He also opened the scoring for the Whitecaps in their 5-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes in the Knockout Round on Wednesday night.
Seattle enters the postseason on the heels of back-to-back shutouts and another clean sheet against the Whitecaps in a 3-0 win at CenturyLink Field a month ago. The defensive anchoring pair of Román Torres and Chad Marshall, in particular, has been strong of late, and the back line’s ability to keep Montero in their sights at all times will go a long way in mitigating Vancouver’s opportunities.
Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan vs. Whitecaps midfielder Yordy Reyna
With Ozzie Alonso’s status uncertain for Sunday, Cristian Roldan will likely have to continue to play more of a defensive midfield role rather than his normal box-to-box responsibility. Roldan has done a great job of late taking over defensive duties next to the more offensive-minded Nicolás Lodeiro, and Roldan will need another strong performance plugging up the middle to contain the shifty Peruvian Yordy Reyna. The midfielder scored six goals in 18 matches this season, but he had five tallies and four assists in his last 10 regular-season games.
Sounders forward Will Bruin vs. Whitecaps defender Kendall Waston
Will Bruin recorded the fourth double-digit goalscoring season of his career, finishing second on the team with 11 tallies. He also has three goals and forced a penalty kick in the final two regular-season matches and is ready to take advantage of his time back in the postseason. Bruin, 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, will be in a physical battle all series against the Whitecaps’ hulking, 6-foot-5, 200-pound Costa Rican center back Kendall Waston. It’ll be Bruin’s responsibility to stretch Waston and center back partner Tim Parker to allow space for Seattle’s attacking midfielders to operate underneath.
The return leg in Seattle will be on Thursday, Nov. 2 at 7:30 p.m. on FS1.