On Thursday, the Seattle Sounders discovered their opponents for the group stage of the MLS is Back Tournament, which kicks off on July 8 in Orlando, Fla. Here are the key matchups to watch, presented by Toyota.
Yeimar Gómez Andrade vs. Lucas Cavallini (Vancouver Whitecaps)
Lucas Cavallini, a Canadian international nicknamed ‘El Tanque’, was Vancouver’s big offseason signing heading into 2020. The scrappy striker earned the sobriquet for his relentless playing style. But what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? We’ll find out when Yeimar Gómez Andrade locks down Cavallini in the group stage.
A cerebral center back that reads the game extremely well, Gómez Andrade showed real flashes of his thrilling potential in his first few games for the Rave Green before the season was put on pause due to COVID-19. Not only does he boast elite positioning and an innate understanding of defensive angles, his recovery speed and strength in 50-50 challenges make him an extremely well-rounded defender.
The Whitecap’s attack will run through Cavallini. If Gómez Andrade can nullify his presence up top, the Sounders will have a massive competitive advantage.
Raul Ruidiaz vs. Oswaldo Alanís (San Jose Earthquakes)
At this point, it’s a universal truth that Raúl Ruidíaz is nearly unstoppable in big games. In just six career appearances in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, the Peruvian scoring machine has posted an eye-popping seven goals and four assists.
The last time Ruidíaz started against the Earthquakes – Seattle’s last-gasp 2-1 victory on 2018 Decision Day – he came up clutch with a second-half brace as the Sounders secured the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
It’s a small sample size, but the Earthquakes’ defense was particularly porous to start the 2020 regular season, allowing seven goals in two matches. Ruidíaz’s ruthless off-the-ball movement coupled with his penchant for scoring crucial goals makes this an enthralling matchup.