LOS ANGELES — The Seattle Sounders set the tone by winning the U.S. Open Cup their first three years as a member of Major League Soccer. In 2014, they won the Supporters' Shield with the most regular-season points. In 2016, they hoisted MLS Cup for the first time. In 2019, they won it again.
Seattle has been a model for success in MLS from the very start, and it’s something LAFC has strived to replicate.
That's why whenever the two teams meet, there’s never a lack of intensity, goals and storylines.
“Two organizations that are built on winning and success,” said Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer after Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Banc of California Stadium. “We have high expectations and standards that we set, so does [head coach Bob Bradley] and LAFC. Any time you have two aggressive franchises going against each other in big games, it starts to become a rivalry.”
Make no mistake, neither of these teams lack an actual rival. Seattle is involved in perhaps the best rivalry in the league vs. the Portland Timbers, while LAFC is involved in perhaps the league's most exciting recent rivalry vs. crosstown foe Los Angeles Galaxy.
But it’s starting to get difficult to not link the Sounders and LAFC. The very first game in the Black and Gold’s history was in Seattle, a 1-0 win thanks to a Diego Rossi goal. LAFC’s first goal at home was also scored against the Sounders, a wild free kick winner by Laurent Ciman.
The moment that really stands out, though, is the blue, green and white confetti that rained in California on October 29, 2019, after the Sounders handed LAFC a clinical 3-1 loss in the Western Conference finals. Seattle ruined a storybook season for LAFC, which had won Supporters’ Shield, set a number amount of records and saw Carlos Vela take home league MVP honors.
Seattle played spoiler and went on to win MLS Cup. In a postgame interview on live television that night, Schmetzer was asked how he was feeling. "Better than Bob," he quipped.
Schmetzer would later apologize for the comments, but they sparked a flame. Seattle backed up its coach's talk and sent LAFC packing in the playoffs again last season.
“We certainly know that when we play them, both teams really get after each other,” Bradley said. "Some of the games between us have been excellent. We’re always excited knowing that Seattle is a good rival. We’ve had some really good wins against them and we’ve had some certainly disappointing losses.”
Saturday’s draw doesn’t give anyone the upper hand. It was lacking big names like Vela, Rossi and Nicolas Lodeiro due to injuries. But it was still another chance for Bradley and Schmetzer to test their luck against each other.
“It’s turned into a good rivalry,” said LAFC's Mark-Anthony Kaye. “Obviously it’s two top teams in the league going toe-to-toe. We know what they’re capable of, they know what we’re capable of."
The Sounders have never finished below fourth place in the Western Conference, and as conference champions four of the last five years, they'll remain a favorite until someone says otherwise. LAFC, meanwhile, is tabbed as a favorite to win the Cup this season.
In a few short weeks, LAFC will travel up north for yet another shot at the Sounders. They won’t meet again until late October.
But might we be on a crash course for a potential playoff matchup in November?
History says yes. And that we should all be excited for it.
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