Sounders, LAFC to Battle it Out in Western Conference Semifinals

In a dramatic finish to their season, the Sounders saw their journey end in a 1-0 defeat against LAFC during the Western Conference semifinals. Denís Bouanga sealed the fate with a spectacular goal in the 30th minute, expertly maneuvering a pass from the right wing and smashing it past Stefan Frei into the far post. The Sounders had a notable opportunity when Jordan Morris went one-on-one with Maxime Crepeau, but the latter made a stunning save, reaching back against his momentum.

The matchup was an explosive clash between the league’s top offense and the best defense. LAFC boasted Denís Bouanga and Carlos Vela, the two players with the most prolific offensive seasons in MLS history. Conversely, the Sounders flaunted a robust defense, having secured an impressive 16 shutouts in league play.

Had the game been played in Los Angeles, the odds would’ve favored the black-and-gold squad. Fortunately, the Sounders managed to clinch home-field advantage, setting the stage for the game at Lumen Field amidst near-freezing temperatures. The Sounders’ home playoff game streak remains unbroken, stretching back to the pre-Brian Schmetzer era, boasting a league-tying record of 19 games without outright defeat.

The Sounders approached the match in peak condition, with all key players fully fit after a two-week hiatus following the first round. In contrast, LAFC faced a bit of rust, having played their last first-round game nearly three weeks prior.

Additional tidbits highlight the history between the teams: The Sounders had a 0-1-1 record against LAFC in the regular season, with the lone goal arriving in the first minute of the Southern California meeting. Notably, since LAFC’s initial victory at Lumen Field in 2018, the Sounders have boasted a 4-0-3 record against them at home, including a 3-1 triumph in the 2020 playoffs.

LAFC’s track record as defending MLS champions is formidable, boasting an 8-1-2 record against MLS competition in knockout games across all competitions, with their only loss being a 2-0 defeat to the LA Galaxy in this year’s U.S. Open Cup.

Bouanga’s recent form has been astounding, with nine goals in his last five MLS games, including three in the first round of playoffs, matching the league record for most goals in a five-match stretch. Josef Martinez holds the record for most goals in a six-match stretch with 11.