Dave Clark of Sounder at Heart answered some questions ahead of the midweek match pitting likely playoff foes Seattle and Real Salt Lake against each other as the season draws to a close.
Matt Montgomery, RSL Soapbox: Seattle Sounders have had trouble in recent weeks putting together a run of form approaching their early season success. What do they need to do to get back into that rhythm?
Dave Clark, Sounder at Heart: Three things should help that. First is that they are at home for a decent stretch. Even though Seattle is one of the rare road teams with a positive goal differential, a stretch of four total road matches to end September proved too difficult for them. Two, not playing San Jose. The Sounders are horrid against San Jose. In fact, if Seattle had performed their average against the Earthquakes they would be in second with 56 points. Seattle only has four losses to the non-Quakes. Third is health. Seattle's offense without Mauro Rosales is merely an average MLS side.
How much of a role does the absence of Adam Johansson play in Sigi Schmid's thinking ahead of Wednesday?
Sigi likes to flood the right side with crossers. Johansson, Rosales and Tiffert all sit in similar spaces and serve it into the box. Without Johansson they are likely to use Zach Scott at right back. He is a defensive specialist and doesn't provide the outlet for Rosales. Instead the fullback width will come from the left side as Leo Gonzalez is out and Marc Burch will start. There is a chance that Brad Evans slots into the right back which would mean a more normal shape from the Sounders, plus height in set-play work but less defense.
With RSL able to avoid the qualifying play-in with a win and Seattle nearly there, how big would a rematch of 2011's playoff battle be for Seattle fans?
To me RSL is a second rivalry group. There's Cascadia and then there is LAG/RSL. Those two teams are the ones over the life of the MLS Sounders that have prevented chances at the MLS Cup. Getting a chance to unseat one of those two in the first round. Facing Real Salt Lake would mean the opportunity for redemption. That loss at Rio Tinto was one of the worst four performances by Seattle in their history. It was not like the 6-1 blowout to Santos Laguna where a much better team just crushed Seattle, but instead was a set of failures tactically and mentally that dug such a large hole that they could not advance in the Playoffs. It's time for the Sounders to put that match to rest and beating RSL Wednesday would be a good start.
Lineup: Gspurning; Burch, Ianni, Parke, Scott; Alonso; Evans, Tiffert, Rosales; Montero, Ochoa
At RB Evans could start which would mean that Zakuani starts at LM. Estrada could edge out Ochoa, but I think Ochoa will be driven to prove that the 3-nil was an aberration.
I also answered some questions over at Sounder at Heart, so go read those if you'd like my take on the match. There'll be plenty of that in the coming days, as well.