Morris SEAvLAFC Toyota Cover

SEAvLAFC: Three Matchups to Watch for in the MLS is Back Tournament Round of 16, presented by Toyota

Here we go again.

The Seattle Sounders face off against LAFC on Monday (8:00 p.m. PT; FS1, TUDN, 950 KJR AM) in the Round of 16 at the MLS is Back Tournament. Here are three matchups to watch, presented by Toyota.

Jordan Morris vs. Latif Blessing

Jordan Morris has been in scintillating form at the MLS is Back Tournament.

It’s nothing new – Morris has seven goals and four assists from his last 11 appearances for Seattle across all competitions – but the Homegrown winger continues to evolve his game to devastating effect. Blessed with an abundance of pace and strength, the Mercer Island native has become increasingly prolific at interpreting space, combining in tight spots and creating chances for others, as demonstrated by his goal, assist and earned penalty in the 3-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Blessing, a Swiss army knife capable of lining up anywhere on the pitch, started LAFC’s first two matches in Florida at central midfield before being deployed as a right back against the Portland Timbers. The Ghanaian utility man is quick, clever and capable of shrugging off most MLS players, but he’ll have his hands full on Monday. Blessing is a very good defensive player, but his inexperience at right back could be exploited by Morris, whose multidimensional play on the wing makes him a nightmare for even the most veteran defenders.

Raúl Ruidíaz vs. Tristan Blackmon

It’s an incredibly small sample size, but Raúl Ruidíaz must love playing against LAFC.

The Peruvian scoring machine has only faced off against the Black & Gold on one occasion – the 2019 Western Conference Final – but he was ruthlessly efficient for Seattle on the biggest stage, posting two goals in the 3-1 win last October. To call Ruidíaz a poacher is dismissive of his well-rounded skillset, as he loves to combine with teammates, release wingers and drop into the soft spot in Zone 14 to wreak havoc.

Blackmon has enjoyed a meteoric rise from University of the Pacific standout to one of the best young defenders in MLS. But he’ll have his hands full against Ruidíaz on Monday night. Do you really want to bet against Seattle’s talismanic striker in a knockout competition?

Nouhou vs. Brian Rodríguez

A rising star for the Uruguayan national team, Rodríguez oozes class and talent out on the wing. In Bob Bradley’s system, LAFC likes to use metronomic possession between the lines to create 1-v-1 scenarios for Rodríguez and Diego Rossi out on the flanks.

Enter Sounders FC left back Nouhou, who’s added attacking wrinkles to his already superb defensive play. Look for the Sounders to keep their defensive shape compact, shrinking space in the middle for those line-breaking passes LAFC’s midfielders love to play. Once the ball works wide to Rodríguez, it’ll be up to Nouhou to keep the LAFC winger in front of him and deny service to Bradley Wright-Phillips.