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RSL returns to Seattle in search of victory

Posted on 08 September 2010 by kali

Last time Real Salt Lake played in Seattle, the team accomplished something extraordinary — winning an MLS Cup.

On Thursday night, RSL will have the opportunity to make a statement to the rest of the league once again in Seattle, as a victory over the Sounders (8 pm PT/9 pm MT, ESPN2) would put Real on top of the league table ahead of the weekend matches.

Earning a victory over a Sounders side that is seeking its fourth consecutive home win won’t be easy for Salt Lake, however.  Not only will All-Star central defender Jamison Olave be forced to sit out through yellow card accumulation, but injuries and fatigue have started to take their toll on Jason Kreis’ team.

Striker Fabian Espíndola is doubtful with a hamstring injury sustained in last week’s victory over New York, while fellow striker Alvaro Saborío has experienced some swelling of the knee but is considered probable.  Robbie Findley, who was ill last week, is likely to start alongside either Saborío or Pablo Campos up front.

The RSL  midfield has also taken a hit this week after Ned Grabavoy tweaked his knee and was listed as doubtful for Thursday’s match.  With Will Johnson having played 90 minutes for the Canadian National Team over the weekend, Kreis will have some juggling to do with his starting midfield as well.  Kreis may opt to start either Andy Williams or Nelson Gonzalez along with Javier Morales and Kyle Beckerman.

However, Olave’s absence may be the most significant, as he and Nat Borchers have been one of the stingiest central defenses in the league.  Kreis could either start Rauwshan McKenzie, who has played in just three matches for RSL this season, or shift Robbie Russell into the center with Borchers and bring Tony Beltran off the bench to start on the wing.

The Sounders are not without injury worries of their own, however, with Brad Evans, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Pat Noonan, and Peter Vagenas all out.  Designated Player Blaise Nkufo is questionable with a knee problem, while former Real midfielder Nathan Sturgis has an ankle sprain but is considered probable.

Despite those injuries, Seattle will be looking to get back on track after a tough 3-1 loss at New England last weekend.  Prior to that loss, Fredy Montero, Steve Zakuani, and Osvaldo Alonso had been integral in the Sounders’ seven-game league undefeated streak, and will pose a stern challenge to RSL at Qwest Field.

Regardless, Real has plenty of motivation to get a crucial road victory.  While Kreis believes his team is a longshot at the Supporters Shield due to the late-season schedule, he said of the possibility, “It would be huge. There’s no doubt about it. We feel a lot of pride in what we’ve done here over several years, and to kind of answer a lot of naysayers about what they said about us at the end of last year would be gigantic.”

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