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What we’re watching in Real Salt Lake vs. Seattle Sounders

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Round two of the 2019 MLS Western Conference Playoffs kicks off in the Emerald City

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

After a strong performance against the Portland Timbers at home, Real Salt Lake hops on a short flight to Seattle to face the Sounders at Century Link Field. The teams face each other for the third time this season with 1 win a piece during the regular season. The winner of this game will either host the LA Galaxy or make a trip to Banc of California Stadium to face LAFC depending on the outcome of the other match in the MLS Western Conference Quarter-Final.

Bodies In the Box

The Seattle Sounders’ approach to goal scoring is to try and jam as many bodies in the penalty area as possible and just ping the ball around and hope that it finds the inside of someone’s foot. If you look at the last two of Jordan Morris’ three goals in their match against FC Dallas, both of them come from him standing in the 6 yard box and trying to make goal-directed contact with the ball and hope that it slips in through the chaos. Assuming the Sounders come out with a similar lineup, I would guess that they’re going to spend as much time possible trying to pin the Real Salt Lake defenders in their own area and just rifle in as many shots as they can.

Rolling In with an Advantage

Real Salt Lake does have two distinct advantages going into this match though:

  1. Late Goals: The Sounders seem to LOVE letting in late goals. They gave up 3 in the second half on Saturday and it seems to be somewhat of a trend with the team. It just so happens that Real Salt Lake seems to equally LOVE scoring in the second half.
  2. Time: Because the Sounders let in the equalizing goals, they had to play a full 120 minutes on Saturday while Real Salt Lake only had to play 90. They are saving themself some travel time, but I’m not sure if that savings will make up for the miles they put into their legs.

I believe that, between the two, Real Salt Lake has a solid shot of overcoming the fact that they aren’t on their home ground and coming away with a win. If nothing else it will give them a solid foot to stand on, which they may need on the multi-purpose pitch at Century Link field.

Looking Around the Corner

Both teams will be looking to settle this match as quickly as possible. As mentioned earlier, there are two very strong Southern California clubs lurking around the corner. While no one has to worry about making a trip to Carson, everyone in the playoffs has to worry about facing one of the best teams in MLS history at their home in Los Angeles. My guess is that this will lead to full-strength line-ups and late-stage subs unless the score starts to got +/- 2 in either direction.

Injury Report

OUT:

  • Jordan Allen (knee 6/16/17)
  • Nick Besler (foot 8/10/19)

Projected Lineup

I know that this lineup won’t appease a lot of people because of the lack of Sam Johnson, but I think of this as a more “defense-minded” approach to help deal with the box-crashing Sounders trying to squirrel away a goal.