Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris (right) takes a shot in front of LA Galaxy defender Julian Araujo during a match on Nov. 4. (Associated Press)

Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris (right) takes a shot in front of LA Galaxy defender Julian Araujo during a match on Nov. 4. (Associated Press)

In uncertain times, Sounders’ constant has been a will to win

The second-seeded team hosts seventh-seeded Los Angeles FC tonight at the newly named Lumen Field.

  • Tuesday, November 24, 2020 1:30am
  • Sports

By Jayda Evans / The Seattle Times

One thing the Sounders have proven through a season scarred by the coronavirus pandemic is that the fortress is within themselves.

The club has played on without its usual crowd of more than 40,000 mainly clad in green and blue, and cheering wildly. And Seattle has played in a facility that changed its name last week, becoming Lumen Field.

Through the changes, the constant is the Sounders finding a fire within to collect wins on their home turf. The club has lost only once in 10 home matches this season.

The Sounders (11-5-6) aim to continue the success in the Major League Soccer playoffs. Seeded second in the Western Conference, the Rave Green host seventh-seeded Los Angeles FC at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Lumen Field. The match will be broadcast on ESPN.

“The home-field advantage still exists without the fans,” Sounders forward Jordan Morris said. “We obviously wish they could be there; we miss them a lot. But we know that in our home we need to win.”

It’s a message the Sounders hear before every game from midfielder Nico Lodeiro. He could be the most competitive player on the roster, often willing the team to wins and connecting on an MLS-leading six game-winning assists this season.

It’s the same in training. This month the team held a “soccer tennis” tournament to break up the monotony. Lodeiro played as if it were a championship.

“His cheeks were puffing red because (his group) couldn’t win a game; we were almost laughing on the sideline because he was about to blow a gasket,” said Sounders keeper Stefan Frei, who won the tournament with defenders Yeimar Gomez Andrade and Roman Torres on his team. “That’s how Nico is — a very, very competitive player. That’s helped us. That competitiveness molds really well with the ‘never die’ attitude that we’ve had at this club, where we keep going and keep going until the very end.”

The Sounders hope the playoff opener doesn’t come down to the end of the game. Three of the league’s five opening-round postseason matches last weekend were decided by penalty shootout.

But only the third-seeded Portland Timbers were upset on their home field.

Seattle also has an advantage with its roster, returning most of its 2019 MLS Cup-winning team. Yet Tuesday’s likely starting center backs in Yeimar and Shane O’Neill combine for one postseason game appearance. O’Neill started for the Colorado Rapids in a 2013 playoff match.

“We’re ahead in the standings, but that doesn’t mean that they’re a bad team,” Sounders forward Raul Ruidiaz said of LAFC. “They have a great team, a great roster, a great coach. … We are prepared to give our best. We want to win this title (again). Nobody takes away the motivation and our desire to win.”

Seattle and LAFC have played each other four times this season — once as part of the MLS is Back summer tournament in Florida. The Black and Gold (9-8-5) haven’t fielded the same team in any of the matches. Tuesday’s lineup also won’t feature most of the players who were upset by the Sounders in last year’s Western Conference final at Banc of California Stadium.

LAFC will be without four top players due to positive COVID-19 tests, including MLS Golden Boot winner Diego Rossi. But Seattle didn’t plan on playing a fully loaded L.A. lineup.

MLS originally ruled that players traveling internationally had to quarantine for a minimum of nine days to rejoin their clubs. With the recent FIFA window ending last week, international players called up wouldn’t be available until MLS conference semifinals begin the week of Nov. 29.

The league and MLS Players Association agreed to change the rule to allow players to immediately play if they returned to their U.S. clubs on a charter flight. But Rossi, countryman Brian Rodriguez (Uruguay), left back Diego Palacios (Ecuador) and midfielder Jose Cifuentes (Ecuador) tested positive for the virus while with their national teams and are self-isolating in their respective countries.

LAFC did return star forward Carlos Vela from a left-knee injury. Vela set the MLS record for goals in a season last year (34), winning the 2019 MVP award.

The Sounders were able to provide a charter flight for defensive midfielder Gustav Svensson (Sweden) after his international duty last week. Ruidiaz, who tested positive for COVID-19 in October and was asymptomatic, is eligible as a “recovered person” after honoring his call-up for his Peru national team.

“We don’t call it an underdog role,” LAFC coach Bob Bradley said. “In this game we’ll miss certain guys, but we’ve still got to make sure that everybody’s ready to go. The focus is on the team, that’s the way we’ve worked since these guys (internationals) have been gone since the end of the regular season.”

LAFC defeated Seattle with a depleted roster in their most recent meeting in October. That match was in L.A. Things tend to be different when the Sounders are at home.

“It’s the mindset of this team,” Morris said. “Championships are what we strive for, and anything less isn’t a success. Making the playoffs is obviously great, but our whole mindset as a team going into each year is to win MLS Cup. Everyone that comes into the team understands that that’s the goal. Everyday you’re working toward that.”

Talk to us

More in Sports

Lake Stevens' Drew Carter holds up the ball after scoring a touchdown to secure the win as Lake Stevens beat Eastlake 45-28 in a 4A state semi-final football game at Pop Keeney Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021 in Bothell, Washington. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Lake Stevens downs Eastlake to reach 4A state title game

The Vikings win 45-28 and will face Graham-Kapowsin for the state championship next weekend.

Marysville-Pilchuck's Brayden Rogers, left, and Dylan Carson take comfort after loosing to Bellevue High Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium in Seattle on November 27, 2021. The Tomahawks fell to the Wolverines 27-3 ending their playoff run. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Marysville Pilchuck’s state run ends with loss to Bellevue

The Wolverines hold the high-powered Tomahawks in check and pull away in the second half for a 27-3 win in the 3A semifinals.

Padres second baseman Adam Frazier field the ball during a baseball game against the Giants on Sept. 16, 2021, in San Francisco. The Mariners acquired the All-Star second baseman from the Padres in exchange for two minor-leaguers on Saturday. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Mariners acquire All-Star 2B Frazier from Padres

Seattle sends a pair of minor-leaguers to San Diego in exchange for the soon-to-be 30 year old.

Silvertips forward Alex Swetlikoff (90) battles for the loose puck during a game against Kamloops on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021, at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett. (Kristin Ostrowski / Everett Silvertips)
Blazers hand Silvertips 1st regulation loss of season

Kamloops earns a 3-2 win in a battle of Western Conference powers at Angel of the Winds Arena.

Eastern Washington wide receiver Efton Chism III, a Monroe High School graduate. (Photo provided by Eastern Washington University)
Former local standouts hope to lead Eastern to national title

With Efton Chism III, Josh Jerome and Anthany Smith helping lead the way, the Eagles begin their quest for a crown.

Washington State running back Max Borghi (21) evades a tackle attempt from Washington tight end Carson Smith (42) as he runs for a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Cougars end Apple Cup skid, clobber rival Huskies

Washington State snaps a seven-game losing streak to Washington with a record-setting 40-13 win.

Lake Stevens' Grayson Murren competes against O'Dea High School in Seattle on September 17, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Lake Stevens standout QB ‘so glad’ to be back from injury

After an injury threatened to end his senior season, Grayson Murren is leading the Vikings’ offense again.

Arlington's Gage Price leaps over a Marysville-Pilchuck player during the game on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021 in Arlington, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
MP’s ‘overlooked’ defense has been a dominant unit this season

The Tomahawks’ offense gets much of the attention, but the defense is nearly as good.

Kevin Clark / The Herald

***Silvertips Special Sections*****
Yan Khomenko signals for substitution Sunday night at Xfinity Arena in Everett, Wa on September 6th, 2015

Sports:  Silvertips Special Section
Shot on: 09/06/15
Royals snap Silvertips’ 10-game win streak in overtime

Victoria scores late to force the extra period and again early in overtime to win 4-3.

Most Read