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RSL faces potential “six pointer” at Seattle

Posted on 10 September 2011 by kali

Real Salt Lake travels to Seattle on Saturday afternoon (2 pm MT, KMYU 2.2) for a match with tremendous implications for the Western Conference playoff race.

RSL currently sits in 4th place in the West with 42 points, while the Sounders are in 2nd place on 48 points, meaning that a win would put Salt Lake even on points with two games in hand on the Sounders.

On paper, it seems as though Seattle has a huge advantage, having gone unbeaten in its last four matches and scoring six goals in its last match, a 6-2 win over Columbus on August 27.  Moreover, the Sounders will literally have a home turf advantage at CenturyLink Field on an artificial surface to which Real has often found difficult to adjust.

On the other hand, RSL has plenty of motivation to get a result in Seattle despite a spate of injuries.  Not only has Salt Lake failed to score , let alone win, at CenturyLink in regular-season play, the Sounders snapped RSL’s 29-game MLS home unbeaten streak earlier this season at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Getting that result won’t be easy for Real, though.  Seattle stormed through the month of August, thanks in part to the play of midfielder Mauro Rosales and a strong supporting cast that includes youngster Lamar Neagle and defensive-minded Osvaldo Alonso.  Salt Lake will need to disrupt the Sounders’ rhythm in midfield and play strong team defense all over the pitch in order to win.

RSL coach Jason Kreis will not have international absences to deal with this week, but minor injuries to Fabian Espindola, Jean Alexandre, Will Johnson, Jamison Olave, Nick Rimando, and Alvaro Saborio will need to be managed, particularly on the artificial surface.

Defender Robbie Russell is listed as questionable due to back spasms, but is likely to start while Chris Wingert recovers from a fractured wrist and recent signing Blake Wagner continues to integrate into the team.  However, midfielder Ned Grabavoy and strikers Paulo Junior and Cody Arnoux have both returned to play after their injuries, giving Kreis some options for the bench.

Regardless, three points would be massive for Real as it seeks to capitalize on its own run of form, including back-to-back wins against Chivas USA and Philadelphia.

“We’ve gotten back to a good spot where we feel confident in what we’re doing,” said Johnson this week.  “We’ve got to take that confidence up there [Seattle].”

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