Tyler Miller’s journey has come full circle. Tonight, in front of a packed stadium, he is defending the Banc against a team that gave him his start, and his first taste of a Western Conference Final. In 2017, Miller, a solid Sounders 2 starter, helped lift the defending MLS Cup champions, the Seattle Sounders, into the MLS Cup Final. He was instrumental in preserving a clean sheet against Houston Dynamo when Stefan Frei was injured. Weeks after that momentous occasion, he was drafted by an upstart expansion team in Southern California, and his rainy days were left behind him. Tonight, his role will be pivotal, far more so than when he was a backup for Frei, for LAFC to defend their goal against a dangerous Seattle Sounders. And to do so will mean Miller will face his former teammates.
Miller has grown a lot since those early days in the Pacific Northwest. A far cry from supporting player, he has reached a more consistent level of play, received his first national team call-up, and often comes up with big saves in moments of import. He still lacks the big-game maturity of counterparts like the seasoned Frei, but it’s no small lucky break that he will find himself facing the team who helped bring him to the frontlines in a game that matters. No doubt his experiences from the previous biggest game of his life will come to mind tonight. But tonight, a stronger and wiser Miller awaits. “It’s the upstarts vs. the old hands in the Western Conference Final on the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs,” Miller flatly states. The 2016 MLS Champions, Seattle, are in the playoffs for a record 11th consecutive season. No doubt about it, LAFC have built themselves into the oddest underdogs – fierce in their attack, Supporters’ Shield secured, miles apart in the regular season in points, yet somehow still not convincing enough to their detractors, as indicated by the Bob Bradley bristle in post-game last Thursday when questioned about Carlos Vela’s performance in games that matter most. Could they be playing with a chip on their shoulder to prove they are the “Best in the West”? Absolutely. And it’s done them well so far to keep shooting it out.
Other game notes:
Six months ago, the last meeting between LAFC and the Seattle Sounders was the first in their two-year history that LAFC didn’t win.
The last time the Western Conference Final was in Los Angeles was in 2014. It’s been a long time so yes, LAFC look to win #forLosAngeles.
Sometimes it’s all about timing. Jordan Morris is back and in a big way. After his season-ending ACL injury in 2018 and a slow start this year, he netted a hat trick that brought the Sounders a win in the first round of MLS Playoffs. Morris grabbed 10 goals and 7 assists during the 2019 regular season. He’s one to watch to exploit the empty spaces LAFC leave behind when pressing high.
And, speaking of Sounders to watch, Seattle’s Peruvian post-season scoring ace, Raúl Ruidíaz, meets LAFC for the first time tonight.
Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs – Western Conference Final
Los Angeles Football Club vs. Seattle Sounders FC
Banc of California Stadium – Los Angeles
October 29 – 7:00 PM PT