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Seattle Sounders vs. RSL preview: Vital points on the line for playoff push

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-Seattle Sounders FC at Real Salt Lake Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake travels to Seattle this Sunday to take on a struggling Sounders club, in what will be one of their last games on the road this season. RSL has 10 games left to play, and six of them are in the confines of Rio Tinto Stadium.

Where they stand

Usually when these two clubs meet, it’s a battle for positioning near the top of the Western Conference. 2016 has seen a very different situation for Seattle (7-12-3, 24 points), as they currently find themselves in ninth place in the west, only four points ahead of last-place Houston. To be fair, the Sounders have as many as three games in hand on some teams, so they’re not out of the playoff race quite yet.

Seattle has won two of their last five outings, the most recent coming on the road against Jason Kreis’ Orlando City side in a 3-1 win. They’ve struggled to find any kind of decent form this season as they’ve seen points dropped in 15 of their 22 games so far this season. However, with the signing of Uruguayan international Nicolas Lodeiro, they’re hoping he can be the key to a late-season playoff push.

Third-place RSL (10-7-7, 37 points) finally got their first home win since June last weekend with a 3-1 win over the Chicago Fire. They’ve won two of their last five matches, while losing one and drawing two. This is the point in the season where every game becomes a vital one, as all of their remaining 10 games are against Western Conference opponents.

Match history

These two teams have a long-standing rivalry that includes knocking each other out of the playoffs in consecutive years. RSL holds a slight edge in the all-time series, with a record of 8-4-6 in regular season play, although Seattle has outscored them 26-22 overall.

RSL won the first meeting of 2016 back in March when they handed the Sounders their second loss in a row to open the season. The most recent meeting was at Rio Tinto Stadium when Seattle knocked RSL out of the Open Cup with a victory in penalty kicks after the two sides played to a 1-1 draw in regular and extra time.

There are two matches left between the sides—the last one being the final game of the regular season in Seattle.

Personnel and key players

Seattle has undergone a few changes over the past little while, including firing long-time coach Sigi Schmid after a bad run of games. Incidentally, they finalized the signing of DP Nicolas Lodeiro from Boca Juniors that same week. Lodeiro has only played two games for the Sounders, but already has made an impact, with two assists against Orlando as Clint Dempsey notched himself a hat trick at the Citrus Bowl in just 58 minutes on the field.

Look for Lodeiro to continue to have an impact in the midfield as the Sounders make a grab for points as the season is in the final stretch.

For the visiting RSL, it’s looking like Yura Movsisyan will be back in the lineup after his injury kept him sidelined for a few games while Olmes Garcia filled in at the starting spot. This couldn’t come at a better time, while RSL could really use the attacking prowess up top to pick up a few much-needed points at this stage in the season.

The return of long-time RSL center back Chris Schuler is also upon us, although it remains to be seen if he’ll make a debut against Seattle. A healthy Schuler could be just what the doctor ordered as he adds some vital depth to RSL’s central defense.


RSL is still without Sunny (facial fractures), Emery Welshman (hip surgery), and Jordan Allen is still questionable with his adductor injury. As mentioned before, Movsisyan is expected to make his return to the lineup this weekend.

The Sounders are missing Aaron Kovar (clavicle) and Erik Friberg (ankle sprain), as well as Roman Torres who tore his ACL in September of 2015 and has been working his way back to full health since then.

At any rate, this match-up is sure to be a heated battle, as both teams are looking to jockey for position—one fighting to make the playoffs, and one battling to stay near the top of the brutal Western Conference table.

RSL expected lineup: Rimando; Phillips, Maund, Glad, Beltran; Mulholland, Morales, Beckerman; Plata, Movsisyan, Martinez

Seattle expected lineup: Frei; Jones, Marshall, Evans, Mears; Ivanschitz, Roldan, Dempsey, Alonso, Lodeiro; Morris