RSL Soapbox: Is this the biggest match of the year for the Sounders thus far? Why or why not?
Sounder at Heart: It's in the top three but only the top three. There was the loss to the LA Galaxy that was probably equally important as LA, RSL and Seattle look to be the class of the West, but the most important had to be the US Open Cup win over the Chicago Fire. Making the Final for the 5th time in six years is a big deal. Sounders FC are now a single win away from qualifying for the CONCACAF Champions League. Trophies are also pretty neat. No matter the result against Salt Lake on Saturday Seattle will still control its own Supporters' Shield and Western Conference destiny.
RSL Soapbox: How much does losing Obafemi Martins out due to red card suspension hurt the Sounders?
Sounder at Heart: At one point this season I argued that Oba was an MVP candidate. He's cooled off since then, but he's still vital to the team. Kenny Cooper is a good MLS player, but he's not Oba. The only thing that Cooper does better than Oba may be heading the ball and that's arguable. Sounders FC will still have both forwards dropping back and driving wide looking 4-6-0ish when Cooper and Dempsey play, but they will not feature the skill checks and overloaded play that occur with Clint and Martins in tight spaces.
RSL Soapbox: Which RSL player do you think is the biggest threat?
Sounder at Heart: Beckerman, it will always be Beckerman for me. Morales is a great #10, but he and Alonso are basically a wash. Plata against Marshall will be fun. But Kyle Beckerman sitting deep and spraying the ball adds a dimension to the attack that will challenge Seattle. He's also a really good defender that can cause Dempsey issues in that 25-35 yard out space where Clint's attacks start. There aren't many in MLS that can do that, Beckerman is one of them.
Projected Lineup: Frei; Gonzalez, Traore, Marshall, Yedlin; Neagle, Pineda, Alonso, Evans; Cooper, Dempsey
*Questions from Sounder at Heart to RSL Soapbox*
Sounder at Heart: RSL's attack is powered by Plata, but there's a new addition. What's the new guy bring?
RSL Soapbox: Plata has had a breakout season, no doubt. He has neen the only reliable scorer since Saborio went down due to injury. RSL is in roughly the same spot points wise as they were last season, but the expectation is that they would be doing better with the younger guys having more experience.
All that to say that RSL decided to bring in Sebastian Jaime, a versatile forward from Argentina that according to Garth Lagerwey, the GM, is not a one-trick pony. He has been playing in Chile for Union Espanola for the past three or four years and during that time participated in some big games including the Copa Libertadores tournament.
He can score in multiple ways and should be able to play alongside any of the other forwards. Here's to hoping he pans out. He is likely to not debut for RSL until at least August 22nd against FC Dallas, possibly later. RSL fans have come to expect good things when the brass brings in a player like this. He is the same age as Saborio when Real brought him onto the team and apparently does not have any holes in his game.
Sounder at Heart: Is there a weakness in the defense that Seattle can exploit?
RSL Soapbox: Salt Lake has a bit of trouble with set pieces although I would not say it is a huge problem. The biggest weakness in my opinion is that the defense has given the ball away in bad spots more than is comfortable this year and that has led to some chances if not goals that have cost RSL some valuable points.
Sounder at Heart: Why is Nick Rimando the best keeper that's played the majority of the career in MLS? How important is he to this year's Salt Lake success?
RSL Soapbox: Statistically speaking Nick Rimando now owns the MLS shutout record which made big news recently. But he is also insanely good at stopping penalty kicks. It is almost freakish that he is able to stop nearly one-third of PKs taken abainst him.
Outside of statistics, he has bery quick reaction speed and is really good with the ball at his feet. It is also clear that he is a leader. When he is out of the lineup, RSL does not win as much. It is simple as that.
Projected Lineup: Rimando, Wingert, Schuler, Borchers, Beltran, Beckerman, Mulholland, Grabavoy, Morales, Plata, Garcia