So it is the 4th of July and what has become a tradition for the last few years is that the day will have a RSL home match for me to enjoy, tonight it will be against one of our Western Conference rivals the Seattle Sounders who will look to spoil a night at Rio Tinto like they did last year. Both teams have seen better times as RSL is dealing with their first 3 match losing streak in 5 years and the Sounders are dealing with a 8 match winless streak of their own. This will be a bit shorter match preview than normal, it is the 4th of July after all.
While the Sounders are 6 points behind RSL in the standings right now (they do have a match in hand), both sides are very similar in how their seasons are going, both are dealing with rotating injury issues that have kept either side from having their first choice lineup on the pitch often in the first half of the season, both teams have positive goal differentials (+7 for RSL and +3 for the Sounders). If you look deeper you will see that both teams score a vast majority of their goals inside the penalty area, RSL has just 2 goals from outside the area and the Sounders have just 3, both sides have held their opponents without a goal 6 times, both sides have been held without a goal 4 times, both teams are lead in scoring by a player with 7 goals (Alvaro Saborio for RSL, and Eddie Johnson for Seattle), both teams are very good when they score the first goal (RSL is 8-1-0, SEA is 7-0-0).
There are some differences, RSL seems to finish matches for offensively scoring 11 goals in the final 30 minutes of matches, the Sounders have just 7 goals in the final 30, and just 1 in the final 15. The Sounders have just 7 players who have scored goals for them this year, Real Salt Lake has had 10, the Sounders have 3 players with multiple goals (Johnson-7, David Estrada-5, Fredy Montero-4), while RSL has 5 (Saborio-7, Fabian Espindola-6, Kyle Beckerman-4, Javier Morales-2, Jonny Steele-2).
A few more thoughts after the jump:
For Real Salt Lake one of the strong points of the team is the consistency of our core of players, most people probably don't realize that RSL has 10 players on their roster that have been with the team longer than Seattle has had a team in MLS, and 8 of those players have suited up over 100 times for RSL, a very impressive number.
For the Sounders their rotation this year has meant that almost every match has featured a different lineup and for this match they will be missing one of the keys to their midfield as Osvaldo Alonso will be out on yellow card suspension, so the question is who will fill that gap? It could be Servando Carrasco, a 2nd year player that the Sounders picked up last year in the draft, who has seen limited minutes with just 1 start this year. They could try to move one of their defenders up to fill that spot, It will be interesting to see who fills in and what type of formation the Sounders use.
I wrote earlier this week that I thought that RSL had been missing that chip on their shoulder mentality that often had them believing it was them against the world, and that perhaps the issues that plagued their trip to Columbus might be just what the team needed to get some of that piss and vinegar back into how they play. We will find out against the Sounders who probably have as much talent available to them as any team in MLS and who are under a lot of pressure both from their fans and from their owners to get things turned around in a hurry.
One thing both sides have dealt with this year is some of the bizarre work of MLS officials, and while each match I hold out hope for a consistent match to be called, most often I am left disappointed. The ref for this match is one who actually hasn't been awful, Hilario Grajeda, who has been in charge of 68 MLS matches, calls an average of 24.5 fouls per match, issues a bit high 3.6 yellows, but has only shown 14 red cards and just 11 times has he pointed to the PK spot. One upside to the later start time on Saturday is that that sideline official on the East side of the stadium won't be left staring directly into the sun for the entire match, something that I believe has impacted every team that plays at Rio Tinto this year.
Both of these teams are a bit desperate to get a win in this one, a draw would probably be seen as disappointing, while a loss would be a huge blow and could trigger some other issues. One thing is for sure, both sides will be looking to eliminate some of the mistakes that have cost them points over the last month of the season. I have to believe that the players for Real Salt Lake will come out fast and look to take advantage of the revolving door lineup of the Sounders, who have given up 8 goals in the first 30 minutes of matches, including 5 in the first 15 minutes. RSL has given up just 3 goals in the first 30 minutes, just 1 in the first 15.
I think Real Salt Lake pulls out a hard fought 2-1 win, against a very good Sounders team that simply needs to get healthy and perhaps find a couple of missing pieces.
There you go, remember if you take Trax to the match tonight, the last train to downtown or the U will leave Sandy at 10:23 pm so you will need to likely skip the last 5 minutes of the match and the fireworks if you don't want to get dumped off later trains that only go to 21st South. So be aware of that if you chose to use UTA to get to and from the match tonight.
OFF MY SOAPBOX