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November 2, 2011 at 8:12 AM

Sounders FC vs. Real Salt Lake, preview and prediction

Real Salt Lake Logo.jpgSounders FC (0) vs. Real Salt Lake (3)

Wednesday, Nov. 2, 7 p.m., CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.

TV: ESPN2 (Adrian Healey and John Harkes)

Radio: KIRO 97.3 FM (Arlo White)

Referee: Jair Marrufo

KEY RSL PLAYERS

GK Nick Rimando — With the Sounders expected to be on the attack, much of this match could be in the hands of the veteran goalkeeper. He’s perhaps one of the best shot-stoppers in league history (though he didn’t have to show it in the first leg). His 14 shutouts are the best in MLS.

D Chris Schuler — Coach Jason Kreis wasn’t giving away any clues as to the availability of regular center-backs Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers. I’m thinking it’s very possible the No. 3 sees some time with both starters dealing with quad strains. The 24-year-old stands 6-foot-4 and has played 20 games this season, meaning Kreis and teammates will be comfortable is he has to fill in.

D Robbie Russell — No surprise the key players for the visitors will mainly be on the defensive side in protecting a three-goal lead. With Mauro Rosales ruled out for the Sounders, a lot of goal-scoring pressure with fall on Alvaro Fernandez to complement Fredy Montero. I think the traveled right back had a very solid performance on Flaco in the first leg. Can he make it two in a row?

KEY MATCHUPS

Osvaldo Alonso vs. Javier Morales — There’s no question who got the better of this matchup in the first leg. RSL playmaker had a huge role in a couple of his team’s goals and Seattle’s midfielder struggled. If the Sounders are going to complete the comeback, they’re going to need the ball, and the tenacious Cuban is going to have to get it for them.

Mike Fucito vs. Whoever — I thought some of the forward’s best games this season came against RSL. With Sammy Ochoa struggling in the first leg, I think Fucito gets the call. Teammate Brad Evans seemed to indicate the speed would be a way to score against RSL and the Harvard product is perhaps the fastest guy on the team. Can he make an impact?

Belief vs. frustration — What happens if the Sounders go into halftime scoreless? Will they fold or keep fighting? As has been brought up by many people in the last few days, there have been a lot of wild comebacks in the world of soccer. Anything can happen, perhaps even more so in MLS.

PREDICTION

Let’s get this out of the way quickly. I’m not predicting a miracle comeback. Sorry. Can’t do it. While a spectacular season has justified some of the positive vibes these last few days, Saturday’s dismal performance and result can’t be ignored. This team is in a huge hole.

That said, I do think it could be interesting. I think it will get a little interesting. The Olave and Borchers injuries certainly make things very interesting. A three-goal deficit to a championship-caliber team, however, is too much to overcome.

Here’s how I see it. Castrol Index Playoff Predictor percentages included below.

Sounders FC 2, Real Salt Lake 1 (RSL advances 4-2 on aggregate)

SEA — Mike Fucito (Jeff Parke) 59′

SEA — Fredy Montero (Brad Evans) 88′

RSL — Paulo Jr. (Ned Grabavoy) 90+3′

* * *

What do you think? How do you see it playing out?

playoff predictor2.jpg

COMMENTS

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