Like the Golden State Warriors of 2015-2016, LAFC’s record-breaking regular season was for nothing as the Seattle Sounders went into the Banc of California Stadium and earned a surprise 3-1 win over the Black and Gold. Here are three reactions from LAFC’s elimination to the Sounders.
Sounders succeed in neutralizing Vela
From the onset, the Seattle Sounders knew if they wanted to win this match, they needed to stop Carlos Vela. Not only did the Sounders succeed in stopping Carlos Vela, they took him out of the match completely.
You gotta give credit where credit is due. The Sounders gameplan was solid. By forcing LAFC to play out wide, Vela was essentially neutralized down the middle, and when he tried his best to pick out spaces around the edges of the box, he was immediately surrounded by two or three players.
Given how the match turned out, you can’t help but feel bad for Vela, but blaming him solely for this defeat would be ridiculously unfair. In truth, LAFC’s midfield had been severely underperforming for some time now, and it’s no fault of Vela the team failed to move the ball around well enough after falling to a 2-1 hole. At the end, it’s a shame because you get the sense that Vela really wanted this. Week after week, sitting in that press conference room, you could tell it was MLS Cup title or bust for him. He’ll most likely go on to add the MVP trophy to his Supporters’ Shield win and his record-breaking Golden Boot season, but we all know the real trophy that mattered was this one.
Shades of LA Galaxy, LAFC failed to match Sounders intensity
It is no secret LAFC’s biggest weakness this season has been teams that like to get physical and attack in transition. In that respect, this game showed plenty of similarities with LAFC’s first meeting of the season against the LA Galaxy, a game in which they lost 3-2 in what was arguably the Galaxy’s best performance of the season.
Bob Bradley few times reprimands his team publicly, but on this occasion against the Galaxy, he admitted his team failed to reach “that” next level and was unable to match the intensity and physically of which their rival demonstrated. This game played out in similar fashion, with the Sounders pushing LAFC to the limit physically and taking a 2-1 lead before a lack of response cost the Black and Gold a third.
It’s not that LAFC played a bad game. These are just the type of matches in which you need to demonstrate a certain level of mental fortitude or perish in the process. LAFC failed to do that. When they were only down 2-1 in the scoreline, they resorted to useless crosses instead of actually trying to move the ball from one side to the other. In other words, Seattle got into their head, and LAFC were unable to calmly put the ball in the ground and play their usual game.
The ref also didn’t help, with a handful of decisions going the other way. Then there was Raul Ruidiaz’s Zlatan-esque performance, scoring two brilliant goals in transition.
Ultimately, LAFC just weren’t strong enough mentally to compete against a team that knows what it takes to win these type of games. The Sounders did what they had to do and now they are headed to their third MLS Cup Final in the last four years.
It’s good to see Gonzalo Pineda play part in Sounders success
With a huge smile on his face, Gonzalo Pineda told ESPN Deportes after the game how proud he was of his players’ performance, as he should be. But it’s also good to see Pineda get some sort of recognition for his work with the Sounders, especially in a space in which young Mexican coaches are typically rejected instead of embraced. What Pineda has accomplished at the Sounders is worthy of praise. In fact, almost every time the camera zoomed into the Sounders bench, he could be seen in constant discussion with manager Brian Schmetzer, highlighting just how important he has been to this Sounders coaching staff.
Pineda will now, undoubtedly, go on to be the main storyline for Mexican media ahead of the MLS Cup Final, and you can’t imagine somebody more deserving of all the accolades that will come his way than big “Gonzo” Pineda.