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October 17, 2012 at 11:51 AM

Sounders FC vs. Real Salt Lake, preview and prediction

Real Salt Lake Logo.jpgSounders FC (14-7-10) vs. Real Salt Lake (17-11-4)

Wednesday, Oct. 17, 7 p.m., CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.

Local TV/radio: KONG 6/16, KIRO 97.3 FM (Ross Fletcher, Kasey Keller)

Regional TV: Root Sports Northwest

National TV: NBC Sports Network

Referee: Ricardo Salazar

KEY RSL PLAYERS

F Fabian Espindola — Since leading scorer Alvaro Saborio won’t be available due to international duty with Costa Rica last night, expect the offensive responsibilities to fall more heavily on the Argentine. Recent form indicates he’ll be up to it, with three goals and three assists in his last three games (all RSL wins). Oh yeah, he scored the only goal in the previous two games between these two teams.

M Javier Morales — The team’s playmaker, and one of the best in the league. He’s got a club-high nine assists, including one in each of the past three games (as mentioned before, all wins). He’s started the last 16 games in a row. Very deft as both earning free kicks and making them count. He and Espindola each scored directly off one a couple games ago vs. Portland.

D Jamison Olave — Perhaps the most physical impressive player in the league. Remarkably big, strong and fast at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds. He’s had some injury issues, but got through a full 90 last week against the Galaxy. It would’ve been interesting to see him go up against an in-form Eddie Johnson. Got the better of Sammy Ochoa (a likely Sounders replacement up front) in the first leg of last year’s playoffs.

KEY MATCHUPS

Mauro Rosales vs. Chris Wingert — Sounders coach Sigi Schmid made a point of noting that Rosales has been fouled hard early in the previous two meeting by Wingert, and Schmid wasn’t so sure that’s an accident. Against a compact midfield, the key for the opponent can be wing play, and there are few better in the league than Rosales, who has 13 assists.

Christian Tiffert vs. Kyle Beckerman — I’m expecting if the RSL jet went to pick up Beckerman and others last night, it was with the intention of getting them best able to play. Unlike Eddie Johnson, Beckerman didn’t play in the two USMNT games, so he could be ready to go. Tiffert will find things much more difficult in the center of the field if that’s the case.

The effect of call-ups vs. the effect of call-ups — It’s kind of shame that this marquee game, which will be televised nationally, will be without some key players like Johnson and Saborio. So who benefits more from the effect of call-ups? It’s hard to say. We’ll call the forwards a wash. Maybe Adam Johansson for Will Johnson is even, as well — though Seattle’s defense has less options right now than the RSL midfield. We’ll have to see.

PREDICTION

These games are always tight affairs and very rarely offensive showcases. We’ve seen just one goal combined between the two teams in the first 180 minutes this season and this one — as has been mentioned — will be without the top two goal-scorers in Johnson and Saborio.

I think both teams might have a more defensive mindset in this one. The Sounders will have to make a lot of changes in the back and a tie isn’t the worst result in the world for the visitors.

I’m not sure I see either team breaking through in this one (and hopefully this prediction ensures this score won’t happen)…

Sounders FC 0, Real Salt Lake 0

* * *

How do you see this one playing out?

COMMENTS

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