There was a collective sigh of relief for the Sounders and their fans last weekend. After losing three straight games and four of five, they returned to winning ways on Saturday with a hard-fought, but deserved 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids.
Even with the victory though, the Sounders still find themselves outside a playoff spot, albeit by just one point. Regardless, we've come to the point of the season where a sense of urgency is required, if they are to extend their impressive MLS record of 13 consecutive playoff qualifications.
Friday evening promises to be an intriguing and telling game for the Sounders, as they took on an LAFC side which has the most points in MLS so far this season. Here are 10 things to know, ahead of the game at Banc of California Stadium.
1) We've previously touched on the Sounders' poor road form this season, going just 3-6-1 on their travels in the league. The fact LAFC have only lost once at home during 2022 in 11 league games, highlights what a tough task the Rave Green face on Friday evening.
The Seattle Sounders travel to California for what will be an extremely challenging game on Friday evening at Banc of California Stadium, when they take on an LAFC side currently leading the way for the Supporters' Shield.
2) LAFC attempts an average of 14.9 shots per contest, versus 12.4 by the Sounders. Even more importantly, Los Angeles 42 goals (second-most in MLS) in 21 games, compared to 28 in the same number of games by Seattle.
3) In 14 all-time meetings between the two sides, LAFC have a slight edge with six wins compared to five by the Sounders. The previous time they met was at Lumen Field earlier this season, which ended in a 1-1 draw.
4) As per Jeremiah Oshan of Sounder at Heart, Raul Ruidiaz was a partial participant in training on Tuesday and could potentially be on the bench for Friday's clash with LAFC. He has missed the last two games with a hamstring issue and overall, has been limited to just nine league appearances so far this season.
5) The Sounders will definitely be without Obed Vargas (back) and Joao Paulo (knee) against Los Angeles. Vargas is out for multiple weeks, while Paulo is lost for the season.
6) There has been some debate over how fair Kelyn Rowe's second yellow card was last weekend, for delaying a throw-in by the Rapids. Regardless, Rowe will not feature in the squad for the game versus LAFC.
7) On the other hand, Nouhou Tolo should be back in defense for Seattle. He was removed from the lineup shortly before kick-off against Colorado, due to disciplinary reasons.
8) Already facing a tough task in Los Angeles, the Sounders will also now have to contend with Welsh international Gareth Bale. The former Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur star scored his first MLS goal last weekend, against Sporting Kansas City.
9) Head coach Brian Schmetzer spoke to the media on Tuesday and discussed the team being near the bottom in set-piece goals this season, compared to being co-leaders last year. He said:
"Have we put ourselves in position to score like we did last year and the ball's just not going in, or is there something else wrong? Are we not delivering the ball, or is our movement wrong, or have teams figured us out? We're digging into that now. For this final push, we're digging into it hard. "
10) Albert Rusnak also spoke to the media on Tuesday and was asked about the challenge of facing LAFC. He said:
"They're a talented team. They have a lot of attacking power. We know where they're good at, (but) we also know where they're not so good at and a little bit weaker. But definitely their front three or four are their key players. They can score goals and they can assist goals. It's a good, fun, attacking-minded team that has been doing very well so far this season. They're at the top of the West, so it's a good challenge for us. We need the points just as bad as they will want the three points. I'm expecting a good game on Friday, just like the one that was here a month or so ago."
What's your prediction for Friday's game? Will the Sounders win, draw, or lose and why? Let us know in the comments section below.