I’m back from vacation! Two of the favorites to win this year’s MLS Cup faced off on Saturday, and Seattle and LAFC came away with a 1-1 tie in the Pacific Northwest. Here are my three thoughts on the game:
• Even with neither team at full strength, this was a good game overall. Seattle could have used injured striker Raúl Ruidíaz, who might have finished some of the chances that went missing, and LAFC got just 45 minutes from turf-avoidant Carlos Vela and none from Brian Rodríguez. But these are two MLS teams that actually have some quality depth, and 1-1 was a deserved result in a game that was played at a mostly high level. A tense but scoreless first half opened up in the second half as Albert Rusnák gave the home side the lead on a bad giveaway involving LAFC keeper Maxime Crépeau and midfielder Ilie Sánchez. But Chicho Arango equalized on an opportunistic header. Seattle keeper Stefan Frei made a huge double save and played well again for the Sounders, who have progressed up the table after spotting the league the start of the season as they focused instead on winning the CONCACAF Champions League. This was a measuring-stick game between the two teams I think are mostly likely to represent the West in the MLS Cup final, and I think LAFC will come away slightly more satisfied after getting a point on the road.
GrantWahl.com is a reader-supported soccer newsletter. Quality journalism requires resources. The best way to support me and my work is by taking out a paid subscription now. Free 7-day trials are available.
• MLS needs more marquee regular-season games like this one. I have always enjoyed MLS and have a ton of respect for how far the league has come (from 10 teams at one point to 28 now), but I do wish there were more occasions like this one that felt like important games in the regular season. When I do my twice-weekly “Games on My Radar” Twitter posts for matches around the world, I usually find myself talking about volume rather than quality with MLS, as when I tweet “14 MLS games” instead of a particular one that stands out to me. I don’t think we’ll ever have an MLS without playoffs, which automatically makes regular-season games less important—and I’m OK with playoffs in MLS, to be clear—but I do think this is where having more genuine star power in the league would help make individual regular-season games more attractive.
• Obed Vargas really is 16, and that’s incredible. Vargas, the Mexican American from Alaska who’s set to join the U.S. soon in Under-20 World Cup qualifying, was already way ahead of schedule in his development. But the unfortunate season-ending injury to João Paulo has meant that even more is expected than Vargas this season than originally planned. And once again Vargas was solid in this game in the central midfield as he replaces Seattle’s most important player from last season. Vargas isn’t cap-tied to the U.S. yet and is heavily desired by Mexico, but the U.S. should be glad to have the upper hand (for now) in that recruiting battle. Vargas’s future is bright indeed, but his present is awfully promising too.
What are your thoughts? You can join the discussion in the comments below.
What about the officiating? The two yellow cards that were completely unwarranted? The diving by LAFC?
Unrelated. But what do you think about Arlo White working for LIV Golf?