Mere seconds removed from their meeting in Major League Soccer's Western Conference final a season ago, a television reporter asked Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer how he was feeling after his Sounders' 3-1 upset victory at Los Angeles FC.
"Feeling better than Bob," said Schmetzer in reference to his counterpart, LAFC coach Bob Bradley, a response that generated numerous internet memes and even T-shirts in the Seattle area.
This season, the second-seeded Sounders (11-5-6) and seventh-seeded LAFC (9-8-5) will meet in the opening round of the playoffs.
And it's fair to say Schmetzer is probably still "feeling better than Bob."
LAFC will be without four players, including MLS Golden Boot winner and MVP finalist Diego Rossi, when it travels to Seattle for Tuesday's match. Rossi, defender Diego Palacios, midfielder Jose Cifuentes and forward Brian Rodriguez all tested positive for COVID-19 during recent international duty with Ecuador or Uruguay.
"What we've tried to do in this whole period is to work with the idea that the group we have every day is the group that's playing against Seattle," Bradley said. "We always knew the possibility would exist between quarantine or unfortunately positive tests that we might not have some of the guys that traveled. But I really give a big shout-out to the guys here, just the way they come in every day, you can tell how excited everybody is for this match."
Reigning league MVP Carlos Vela, who missed most of the season with injuries and the birth of his daughter, returned and scored in LAFC's 1-1 draw with Portland on Decision Day.
"None of these guys are going to take LAFC for granted," Schmetzer said of his players. "This is MLS, this is crazy. Anything can happen. There's been playoff upsets, playoff drama. It's never, ever, ever easy. Our team is too smart to let their guard down."
The Sounders are led by a trio of players who were named to the MLS Best XI in forwards Raul Ruidiaz and Jordan Morris and midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro. Morris and Lodeiro are also finalists for the MVP award.
The Sounders and LAFC have split four meetings this season, with Seattle winning twice at home.
--Field Level Media