MLS Cup Playoffs Western Conference combined XI


LAFC and Austin FC lock horns on Sunday in the MLS Cup Playoffs Western Conference Final.

The Western Conference title and, more importantly, a place at MLS Cup are both up for grabs, with LAFC heading in as Supporters’ Shield winners and fresh from beating rivals LA Galaxy. Austin, meanwhile, beat FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake to reach this stage after an excellent regular season campaign that saw them finish second in the West.

Both sides are blessed with incredible attacking talent and this clash has serious potential to be the best match of this year’s Playoffs.

Whet your appetite for the action by taking a look at our combined XI between LAFC and Austin FC:

Diego Palacios is among the best full-backs in MLS.

Diego Palacios is among the best full-backs in MLS. / Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

GK: Brad Stuver (Austin FC) – Maxime Crepeau is definitely one of the better goalkeepers in MLS, but he’s no match for Stuver. The 31-year-old American made 100 saves and kept eight clean sheets during the regular season, but is best known for his habit of making key saves in huge moments for Austin.

RB: Ryan Hollingshead (LAFC) – Hollingshead doesn’t look like your typical attacking full-back and, indeed, his best qualities are defensive ones. The former FC Dallas man is a tough tackler and strong in the air, but he more than holds his own in the final third and even scored six goals during the regular season.

CB: Julio Cascante (Austin FC) – Strong in the air, aggressive on the floor, and calm on the ball, Cascante is everything you’d want from a center-back. The 29-year-old Costa Rican has been almost ever-present for Austin this season, leading their backline with authority.

CB: Jesus Murillo (LAFC) – While Giorgio Chiellini’s arrival stole the limelight, Murillo just kept on rolling. The Colombian is a little more old-fashioned than Cascante, but his aggressive defensive style is key to LAFC. He’s also excellent at getting under the skin of the opposition.

LB: Diego Palacios (LAFC) – With a wand of a left foot and good defensive instincts, Palacios is right up there among the best full-backs in MLS. It’s only a matter of time until a European team gives him a chance.

Few could live with Sebastian Driussi this year.

Few could live with Sebastian Driussi this year. / Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

CM: Jose Cifuentes (LAFC) – Like Palacios, Cifuentes’ days in MLS feel numbered. The Ecuador international chimed in with seven goals and six primary assists during the regular season, while his ball-carrying and aggressive defending make him the perfect midfielder for the Black and Gold. Could Cifuentes be Premier League-bound?

CM: Ilie Sanchez (LAFC) – Losing Eduard Atuesta was always going to be tough for LAFC, but Ilie Sanchez has filled the gap at the base of midfield perfectly. The Spaniard’s passing has helped Steve Cherundolo’s men dictate in almost every game they’ve played and while he’s not exactly aggressive, Ilie’s intelligence helps him break up opposition moves expertly.

CAM: Sebastian Driussi (Austin FC) – 25 goals and five primary assists during the regular season. Three goals in two MLS Cup Playoffs games. An MVP frontrunner. An all-round baller. Does Sebastian Driussi’s inclusion really need further explanation?

Carlos Vela remains one of the most feared forwards in MLS.

Carlos Vela remains one of the most feared forwards in MLS. / Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

RW: Carlos Vela (LAFC) – He might not be the all-conquering 2019 version, but Vela is still capable of single-handedly winning any game for LAFC and remains among the most feared forwards in the league. Four goals and three assists in his last eight games should serve as proof of that.

ST: Cristian Arango (LAFC) – Despite everybody taking him out of their preferred LAFC XIs to make room for Gareth Bale, Arango just kept on banging in the goals and ended the regular season with 17 strikes in 35 games (29 starts). He also grabbed the winner against the Galaxy in the previous round.

LW: Denis Bouanga (LAFC) – It was really tough to leave Diego Fagundez out here, but in reality, Denis Bouanga has barely put a foot wrong since joining LAFC from St-Etienne. The Gabon international even popped up with two goals in El Trafico to help the Black and Gold reach this stage and will undoubtedly cause some headaches for Austin right-back Nick Lima.

Watch the story of Charlotte FC’s journey to MLS in 90min’s The Making of Charlotte FC, presented by DoorDash, on 90min channels now. Subscribe to our new US YouTube channel.

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