TUKWILA — In a euphoric moment, Los Angeles FC coach Bob Bradley didn’t want to discuss the past.

“Get lost, get lost,” the MLS Coach of the Year told an ESPN reporter and global audience last Thursday in response to a postgame question regarding forward Carlos Vela’s performances in big games.

LAFC had just defeated the Los Angeles Galaxy for its first playoff win in franchise history. Given the hype of the derby, dubbed “El Trafico,” and Vela’s losing record against the rival Galaxy, you can see why some would say he can’t handle pressure. However, his two goals and one assist in the MLS Western Conference semifinal match may have silenced some of that doubt.

In hindsight, all that was just a first, big test for LAFC.

Now, with the shadow of its city rival gone, a different pressure and the next test will be applied Tuesday, when the second-seeded Sounders face top-seeded LAFC in the Western Conference final at Banc of California Stadium. Before another global audience, Vela and LAFC will either continue to establish themselves as one of the league’s great teams or Seattle will cement itself as one of MLS’ historic franchises.

“LAFC has done a lot this year, and we’re here to stop them from accomplishing more,” Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan said.


Without question, Seattle has the more storied franchise. The Sounders can draw — and hold — twice as many fans at CenturyLink Field than LAFC can in its stadium. The Rave Green is making an MLS-record 11th postseason appearance. And Tuesday marks their third conference final. Seattle has played for the MLS Cup twice, winning in 2016.

<strong>When:</strong> 7 p.m. Tuesday. <br><strong>Where:</strong> Banc of California Stadium, Los Angeles. <br><strong>Watch, listen:</strong> ESPN, ESPN Deportes (Spanish); 950 AM, 1360 AM (Spanish).

Seemingly the only thing the Sounders haven’t done is defeat LAFC, which began play last season.

The franchises have met four times, Seattle losing three and forced to accept a 1-1 draw in an April match at CenturyLink, where Roldan was sent off in the 18th minute. The red card was rescinded after the match.

LAFC is just building its trophy case. For now, there’s a 2019 Supporters’ Shield after a record-breaking regular season where the club amassed 72 points and tied the season record for most goals scored at 85.

Vela, a two-time CONCACAF Gold Cup winner with Mexico, is the league’s Golden Boot winner with a record 34 goals, but that’s pretty much where his professional accolades end. In the past, his commitment was questioned while playing in Europe, though he seems to be settling in nicely in Los Angeles.


LAFC finished the regular season with an anemic 2-1-5 record in its final eight matches, though it holds an impressive 13-1-3 record at home.

“It’s going to be difficult,” Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei said of playing at Banc of California. “We look at it as an opportunity to win a trophy. We’ve had a very strange year, a very frustrating year for people. But here we are, playing for trophies. That’s why you put in everything you put in throughout the year. … We shouldn’t cloud it with other things — let’s make a statement. No, let’s win a trophy. That’s the opportunity, and it’ll be a heck of a game, and I think we’re ready.”

Unlike each of the previous four matches between Seattle and LAFC, both sides expect to have all their first-choice players available.

Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer didn’t make any changes in his lineup for the first two playoff games. Defender Roman Torres (hamstring) is the only questionable starter, but he did participate in parts of training before the team’s Sunday travel to L.A.

Striker Raul Ruidiaz’s addition to the Sounders’ lineup alongside forward Jordan Morris on the left wing is a solid counter to Vela and LAFC forward Diego Rossi, who scored in the last game against the Galaxy. Ruidiaz, whom Seattle signed in June 2018, has never played against LAFC, missing both games this season due to injury.

Ruidiaz has four goals and three assists in four MLS postseason matches. Morris, who was named the league’s 2019 Comeback Player of the Year, recorded his career first hat trick to help Seattle win a playoff opener against FC Dallas, 4-3, in extra time.

“We can hit them as hard as they can hit us,” Roldan said. “If we have that same intensity, that same mindset going into the game with a full-strength roster, with all of our guys healthy and ready to rock, I’m excited for that test, for that battle. It’s great to see that both teams are pretty much healthy. It’s going to be the match we’ve all been waiting for.”

There’s another reality Bradley may not want to discuss. With six players from the Sounders’ 2016 championship team still on the roster, Seattle knows how to win big games under pressure.

Apart from the semifinal against the Galaxy, LAFC might not.

“There’s lots of other layers of stuff,” Schmetzer said. “The overriding thing is we feel we have a good enough team to make it to MLS Cup. That’s why we want to win.”