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Seattle vs. RSL preview: Decision Day means “win and in” for RSL

A win or draw in Seattle will land RSL a playoff spot for the eighth time in nine years.

MLS: Sporting KC at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Well, here we are. It all comes down to the final day of the season, with four teams fighting for three playoff spots in the Western Conference. RSL, Seattle, Sporting Kansas City, and Portland all have a chance to secure a spot in the playoffs this Sunday — and all four teams have a chance to miss out on them too.

The possibilities are endless…almost

RSL (12-11-10, 46 points) has had chance after chance to clinch a playoff spot, but they’ve failed to find the win they need to do so, going winless in their last six outings. Now, on the final day of the season, all they need is a draw to clinch a spot, and a win to clinch fourth place and host that crucial first-round knockout game.

It won’t be so easy, though, given that they’re visiting one of the most in-form teams in MLS right now, the Seattle Sounders (13-14-6, 45 points). The Sounders have gone 6-3-3 in their last 12 games dating back to August 14th when they kicked off this run with a 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake at home. Seattle can largely thank newcomer DP Nicolas Lodeiro for their run of form, who has four goals and eight assists through 11 games played. Jordan Morris seems to have finally found his feet, with 12 goals and three assists on the season, and has become a very likely candidate for Rookie of the Year.

It’s also tough to overlook the fact that RSL is 2-6-2 all-time at CenturyLink Field in regular season games, losing their last five games there in a row and giving up 14 goals while doing so.

So, what’s the obvious answer for RSL? Come out swinging and beat Seattle on their own turf. A win would not only ensure a playoff spot, but would lock down fourth place and the right to host the first-round knockout game at Rio Tinto Stadium.

The only way that RSL could miss the playoffs completely is if Seattle, Portland, and Sporting Kansas City all win their games. Any other combination of results in these games would see Salt Lake land in sixth place or higher.

The matchup

This will be the third and final meeting between the two clubs in the regular season, with a very likely possibility of a playoff game between the two in their near future. If the playoffs started today — with RSL in fourth and Seattle in fifth — the Sounders would travel to Salt Lake for the first-round knockout game on the following Wednesday or Thursday to see who continues onto the Western Conference semifinals against either FC Dallas or the Colorado Rapids.

The last time they met was a 2-1 win for the Sounders, when Lodeiro notched a goal and assisted Morris on another at CenturyLink Field. However, RSL won the meeting before that in the beginning of the season with a late-game winner from Jamison Olave to seal the 2-1 victory.

RSL should be at near-full strength while still missing Aaron Maund to his broken toe. However, an injury to Yura Movsisyan in last week’s game against Kansas City has left his status questionable and most likely won’t be decided until game time. Losing Yura would be a huge blow to the attack that RSL so desperately needs, as we can assume Olmes Garcia would start in the middle in his absence.

Seattle is missing a few players themselves, the obvious one being Clint Dempsey who was ruled out of the rest of the season with an irregular heartbeat. In addition, they’ll be without Andreas Ivanschitz (knee injury), Dylan Remick (concussion), and Brad Evans is listed as questionable with a calf strain.

We can expect an all-out bloodbath at CenturyLink Field this weekend with both teams fighting for their lives in a virtual do-or-die situation. With all 10 MLS games being played at the same time on this exciting and nerve-racking Decision Day, we’ll know who’s officially in and who’s missed the mark by the time this game is finished.

RSL expected lineup: Rimando; Phillips, Schuler, Glad, Beltran; Mulholland, Morales, Beckerman; Plata, Garcia, Martinez

Seattle expected lineup: Frei; Marshall, Jones, Mears, Torres; Lodeiro, Friberg, Roldan, Alonso; Morris, Gomez