Coming off a 2-1 home win against New York City FC, Real Salt Lake will head to CenturyLink Field to face off against the reigning MLS Cup champions Seattle Sounders for the first time this season.
RSL (3-7-2, 11 points), although bagging their first three points in some time earlier this week, didn’t climb much in the Western Conference table. They’re sitting in ninth, just four points ahead of last-place Colorado, who still has two games in hand. The good news is they’re trailed by Seattle (2-5-4, 10 points) in tenth place, who have also found themselves in a bad run of form lately.
The Sounders’ last victory came on April 23rd when they defeated the LA Galaxy — another struggling team — 3-0 at the StubHub Center. Since then, they’ve been outscored 11-5 in four matches, now on three losses in a row. The last two games have been the worst of the season for the Sounders, losing 4-1 to Chicago and 3-0 to Sporting Kansas City.
The home side in each match has clearly been the dominant force in recent years, as throughout the last 11 regular season games, the team playing at home has emerged the winner.
The most recent outing between these two clubs was the last game of the regular season in 2016, when Seattle defeated RSL 2-1 at CenturyLink Field, thanks to a game-winning goal from youngster Cristian Roldan in the 31st minute.
Overall, Seattle holds the edge in the all-time series, going 11-9-5 through 25 matches played in all competitions, while outscoring RSL 34-27.
Key players, absences galore
While both teams have had a rough go so far this season, RSL isn’t the only one that’s been hit by the injury bug. Seattle will likely be missing a few components that are key to their usual winning ways, arguably the biggest name on that list being Osvaldo Alonso.
Alonso didn’t play their last match against Kansas City due to quad tightness, and is still listed as questionable for the game against RSL. Without him in the holding midfield spot, Seattle really seems to struggle. They’ll also be without stalwart defender Roman Torres, who has been a key cog for the Sounders when he’s healthy.
Real Salt Lake’s injury list has finally begun to shrink, as the game against NYC saw the return of both Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando, two players who were missed sorely for the last few weeks. Tony Beltran is also on the verge of coming back to full health, as Mike Petke said they plan on playing him 45 minutes with the Monarchs this weekend. If all goes well there, we could see Beltran back in action for next week’s home match-up against Philadelphia.
David Horst should also be returning from injury relatively soon which will provide some much-needed depth on the backline.
Turning focus to players that are actually healthy and available, both Albert Rusnak and newcomer Jefferson Savarino showed their strengths in the 2-1 win over NYC on Wednesday — Rusnak with two assists and a goal, while Savarino notched the assist on Rusnak’s first goal.
On the Seattle side, you can never overlook players like Nicolas Lodeiro (three goals, four assists) and Clint Dempsey (four goals, one assist). Both are dangerous in their own right when they’re playing at their best, and can take Seattle from a low point to a very potent attacking team in no time. Lodeiro is, arguably, almost single-handedly responsible for the Seattle turnaround last year that saw them run from last place in the west, all the way to MLS Cup champions.
At any rate, both teams are very much in need of some good fortune. Seattle has been very good at home, recently tallying an 11-game home unbeaten streak until last week when Toronto snapped that with their 1-0 win. Conversely, RSL hasn’t been great on the road, losing nine of their last 11 games away from home while being outscored 22-7.
Real Salt Lake: Yura Movsisyan (4), Albert Rusnak (3), Luke Mulholland (2), Brooks Lennon (1)
Seattle Sounders: Clint Dempsey (4), Will Bruin (3), Nicolas Lodeiro (3), Jordan Morris (2)
Real Salt Lake
OUT: Chad Barrett (knee), David Horst (knee), Justen Glad (int’l duty), Tony Beltran (back), Brooks Lennon (int’l duty), Sebastian Saucedo (int’l duty), Danilo Acosta (int’l duty)
QUESTIONABLE: Jordan Allen (quad strain), Demar Phillips (hamstring)
OUT: Roman Torres (hamstring), Henry Wingo (ankle sprain)
QUESTIONABLE: Aaron Kovar (groin), Osvaldo Alonso (quad tightness), Nouhou Tolo (dislocated shoulder)
Real Salt Lake: Rimando; Wingert, Schuler, Maund, Schmidt; Beckerman, Rusnak, Mulholland; Savarino, Movsisyan, Plata
Seattle Sounders: Frei; Jones, Marshall, Svensson, Evans; Roldan, Fernandez; Shipp, Dempsey, Lodeiro; Morris
When: Saturday, May 20, 3:00PM MT
Where: CenturyLink Field — Seattle, WA
Weather: 69 degrees, partly cloudy
Broadcast: KMYU, ESPN 700, MLS Live
Referee: Kevin Stott