Sounders FC (7-1-1) vs. Real Salt Lake (7-3-2)
Saturday, May 12, 7 p.m., CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.
TV/radio: KING-5 TV, 97.3 KIRO FM (Ross Fletcher, Kasey Keller)
Spanish radio: La Gran D 99.3 FM
Referee: Mark Geiger
KEY RSL PLAYERS
M Kyle Beckerman — The man in the middle hasn’t missed a minute this season. And due to the “Good Behavior Incentive,” his fifth yellow card earned Wednesday at Chicago won’t result in his suspension today. A great two-way player that controls the run of play. Has become a regular in Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad with the U.S. men’s national team.
D Jamison Olave — I’m somewhat surprised the super-talented Colombian is still in MLS. Big, strong, fast — he’s got all the physical tools to dominate in the back. Was the MLS Defender of the Year in 2010 and has been an MLS All-Star and named to the MLS Best XI the past two seasons. Very much a target on set pieces.
F Alvaro Saborio — The team’s leading scorer with four goals and had two of those last week against New England. The 30-year-old Costa Rican has scored four goals in six games against the Sounders the past two seasons, including two in the 3-0 playoff win at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Fredy Montero vs. Nat Borchers — The Sounders DP is on a hot streak right now, and when he’s on form, he’s one of the most dangerous players in the league. He’s got three goals in three games and confidence has been restored. The experienced RSL center back can hold his own with the best, though.
Fabian Espindola vs. Jhon Kennedy Hurtado — Salt Lake has more than one formidable forward and the Argentine has three goals this season. He’s been looking to find his scoring form recently, but will be rested after getting Wednesday off. With Patrick Ianni dealing with a back issue, expect Seattle’s center backs to be unchanged from Wednesday.
Sounders’ recent form vs. Their toughest test — It’s no secret the success Seattle has had recently. Five straight wins. Four over 12 days with the chance to join some elite company tonight. RSL will certainly be the best opponent in the 15-day stretch and is coming in with a four-game unbeaten streak of its own.
It’s tough to pick against the Sounders, but I think this is the game where fatigue catches up to them. Just my opinion of course, but after Friday’s practice, coach Sigi Schmid wasn’t even sure who would be available. RSL comes into the game on short rest, too, but one busy week isn’t the same as two.
Salt Lake won here in last year’s regular season game and earned a point here in 2010, so they won’t be too phased by the setting. They’re generally not great on artificial turf and will be without Javier Morales, but I think they’ll be highly motivated to end Seattle’s run and reaffirm their standing in the Western Conference.
Osvaldo Alonso’s availability (questionable with an adductor strain) is also a big concern for the home side. Here’s what I see:
Real Salt Lake 2, Sounders FC 1
RSL — Fabian Espindola (Luis Gil) 34′
SEA — Fredy Montero (David Estrada) 57′
RSL — Paulo Jr. (Jonny Steele) 76′
* * *
What do you think? How do you see this one playing out?