Sounders FC (15-8-5) vs. New York Red Bulls (15-9-6)
Sunday, Sept. 29, 6 p.m., CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.
National TV: ESPN (Adrian Healey, Taylor Twellman, Alexi Lalas)
Local radio: KIRO 97.3 FM (Ross Fletcher, Kasey Keller)
Referee: Kevin Stott
KEY RED BULLS PLAYERS
F/M Tim Cahill — There has been a lot of talk on the DPs that won’t or might not be available (Thierry Henry won’t be available over concerns with the artificial turf, Clint Dempsey is questionable with a hamstring injury), but the Australian international is expected to play. The former Everton man has had a very good year with eight goals and four assists. Beware of him in the air.
M Dax McCarty — He’s the glue guy in the middle of midfield. On his third team since 2010, but has settled in with the Red Bulls. He’s played 59 games for New York the past two years, collecting seven goals and six assists in that span. Four of those goals and three of those assists have come this season, which is surprisingly more than the guy he was traded for — D.C. United’s Dwayne De Rosario, a former MVP who has just three goals and two assists.
D Markus Holgersson — Another guy who didn’t travel for the visitors was defender Jamison Olave, a former Defender of the Year who has twice been an All-Star and member of the Best XI. That will put a lost of responsibility on his Swedish center-back partner. Has the size at 6 foot 4 to contend with Seattle’s forwards in the air, but he’s a bit slow of foot, which could be a serious mismatch when it comes to the Sounders speed.
Lamar Neagle vs. Kosuke Kimura — Only four players in the league have scored more goals at home than Neagle, a hometown product from Federal Way. Crazy enough, his eight goals at CenturyLink Field are nearly as many as Seattle’s opponents have scored here all year (nine). The Red Bulls’ right back has been in and out of the lineup, but he’s started the last three games of a four-game winning streak.
Fabian Espindola vs. Djimi Traore — The New York forward has had a fair amount of success against the Sounders, which of course came with his former team, Real Salt Lake. Has eight goals this season and could be in line for his first start in five games with Henry out. Seattle’s veteran defender also hasn’t started the past two weeks but is set to return to the lineup due to the suspension to Zach Scott.
Both teams vs. the elements — The pouring rain came in on Saturday and fierce winds are expected to join the party on Sunday. It could be some fearsome weather in this highly anticipated clash for the best record in the league. One would expect the Sounders to be better prepared to deal with a slick artificial turf, but difficult elements can affect both teams (e.g. snow games). Difficult elements can also lead to some flukey goals.
It is becoming almost impossible to pick against the Sounders at home. Seattle has won six straight at CenturyLink Field and is a 10-0-3 there since the season opener.
A visiting team needs to be at its best to come in and get a result, and the Red Bulls don’t look to the part to me without Henry and Olave — not to mention other injuries to Bradley Wright-Phillips (out) and Lloyd Sam (questionable).
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said he’s expecting New York to come in and sit back defensively, and that sounds about right. Either way, I think the Sounders have the firepower to break down an opponent in bunker mode.
Sounders FC 2, New York Red Bulls 0
SEA — Eddie Johnson (Mauro Rosales) 49′
SEA — Obafemi Martins (Michael Gspurning) 87′
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What do you think? How do you see this one playing out?