SEATTLE — If the Seattle Sounders’ 2018 season opens against an unfamiliar opponent on Sunday in expansion team LAFC, at least there will be a familiar face in goal facing them.
Former Sounders goalkeeper Tyler Miller, the first overall pick in the MLS expansion draft, will get the start for LAFC.
It will be a new experience for the 24-year-old Miller, who spent the past two seasons with Seattle, but made just two appearances backing up mainstay Stefan Frei.
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“I’ve actually never been in the visiting locker room (at CenturyLink Field),” Miller told LAFC.com.
The Sounders are coming off a 4-0 victory — and 5-2 victory on aggregate — over El Salvador’s Santa Tecla FC in the CONCACAF Champions League on Thursday.
The victory continued the Seattle’s fine defensive form at home, where it hasn’t been scored upon in its last six games — including a 2-0 victory at Houston in last year’s playoffs with Miller in goal.
“I am going to erase the five (game) from last year, but thanks for bringing that stat up in front of my bosses,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said Thursday. “It was a great way to start the homestand of 2018, and we are hoping that continues.”
Seattle opens the 2018 season looking to advance to its third consecutive MLS Cup, having won the title in 2016, then falling to Toronto 2-0 in December.
The Sounders suffered a major loss in their CONCACAF Champions League opener, not the 2-1 first-leg defeat at Santa Tecla, but Jordan Morris‘ torn right ACL, which will sideline the third-year striker for the season.
It leaves Seattle with an air of uncertainty in attack as the MLS season gets underway, leaving limited depth behind Clint Dempsey and Will Bruin. However, the attack got a boost this week as new signing Magnus Wolff Eikrem made his debut, with the attacking midfielder scoring in the 83rd minute.
“I said in preseason that we like (Wolff Eikrem) because he’s goal-dangerous,” Schmetzer told SoundersFC.com. “He’s a very good passer, his vision is good. I thought overall, he’s a very, very talented soccer player.”
LAFC is entering its first season after going 1-0-3 in the preseason, earning a 1-0 victory over the lower-division Sacramento Republic and getting draws against MLS champion Toronto FC, NYCFC and Vancouver Whitecaps.
It will also mark the return to the MLS for LAFC coach Bob Bradley, who has also managed the Chicago Fire, New Jersey MetroStars and Chivas USA. He coached the U.S. men’s national team from 2006-2011, guiding the squad through the 2010 World Cup.
“When all is said and done, it’s the first game of the season,” Bradley told LAFC.com. “Both teams are going to put 11 on the field. The ref is going to blow the whistle and it’s going to be a chance to show, for the first time, everybody a little bit of LAFC wants to be.”
Striker Carlos Vela was expected to be back for LAFC after coming off in the second half against LAFC as a precaution. Bradley told LAFC.com that he also hopes to have center back Laurent Ciman available as well after missing the last three preseason matches.