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Seattle vs. RSL: Three Questions with Sounder at Heart

RSL ends the regular season against a surging Sounders side at Century Link, where they haven’t had a result since 2012. We talked to Sounder at Heart’s Dave Clark for the scoop on a side that’s searching for a playoff spot.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Seattle Sounders FC Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

1 - You're sort of the polar opposite of Real Salt Lake right now, and you're peaking at the right time. Does that give you confidence heading into this match?

At home, with Schmetzer in charge and a return to decent health this team should be confident. At the same time, it's not as good as it could be. There are only two attacking threats and too many players play right on the edge between fouling and earning cautions. This is a match that the Sounders have to win in order to show that not only can they make the playoffs, they can win in them. The 7-2-4 +7 record only has one win over a sure-fire playoff team (though beating RSL, Portland and Vancouver will be why they make the playoffs if they do so). That's a good sign for the play-in round. They need to be better starting Sunday and lasting into December if their dreams are to come true.

2 - Is Lodeiro really the only reason you've improved so much? That's the popular narrative right now, but it seems like there's something missing.

Nicolas Lodeiro definitely helped the people around him get better. He's not the only reason the team is winning. Just hours before Nico came to Seattle the Sounders let Sigi go. Switching to Brian Schmetzer unlocked passion in players that had lost it. Schmetz has them believing in themselves and owning their own performances. His starting lineups only change based on availability, not on fitness or form. That has helped team performance, while also showing up as exhaustion in short weeks. Being as close to out of the playoff hunt as he could be he needed several wins quickly. His lineups earned that for him and for themselves. Some older players that appeared to stop listening to Schmid do listen to Schmetzer. The tactical differences show up more in attitude, as Schmetzer is using a simpler 4-2-3-1 where Lodeiro and the other central mids decide when and how the team will press in defense. By keeping the tactical side simple Schmetzer can emphasize effort and attitude. He's fixed both of those.

3 - What's the biggest weakness Real Salt Lake could exploit in an effort to make the playoffs? Does it give you pause for thought?

The Sounders are struggling to defend counters that come through wide spaces. Neither Tyrone Mears nor Joevin Jones are the best defenders. When either of them get forward one of Roldan or Alonso needs help to cover that space and ideally the wide mid will provide a bit of defensive help. If not that means that the speedsters of MLS are o 1-on-1 against Chad Marshall or Roman Torres. Those are two excellent defenders, but neither are fleet of foot. Plata worries me a bit in this scenario. He doesn't have the speed of Diaz, but his footwork is as strong. Plus, it will be fun to look at one of the smallest players in the league going up against two of the largest - worrying, but fun.