It’s rarely dull when the Sounders and Real Salt Lake get together, and with both teams sporting close to full-strength squads, Friday night at CenturyLink Field should be no exception.
Last time out: Real Salt Lake 2, Sounders 1 on Aug. 16, 2014 — All 5-foot-3 of Joao Plata beat the Sounders defense with a back post header, a giveaway at the top of the box gifted RSL a second goal and a late Seattle push fell short at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Battle to watch: RSL strike force against the Seattle back line
Alvaro Saborio’s return from injury adds another threat to what was already a formidable front line. Saborio has scored 46 goals in 80 career appearances with the club and Plata might be this season’s team MVP. The pool of strikers is so deep that former U.S. national Robbie Findley has to work just to stay at No. 3 on the depth chart.
The Sounders defense, meanwhile, is still searching for consistency. Giving up a pair of second-half goals doesn’t matter all that much when you’re up 4-0 on Chivas USA. Against a fellow contender though — and especially come the postseason — such lapses could be fatal.
“You have to be careful about stuff like that, because playoffs are a two-leg series,” Sounders defender Zach Scott said.
“You let goals in at the end of the game, and that could eventually bite you in the rear. It’s something we have to clean up, but it’s not something we’re worried about.”
Friday night would be a timely place to start.
Player to watch: RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman
I put Beckerman in this slot last time these teams met and his performance that afternoon in Sandy was more than strong enough to keep him here.
Particularly if you’re fortunate enough to take this match in from the CenturyLink stands, watch how Beckerman subtly impacts the game, the way he sees the angles and uses passes to move around the defense. Watch how Osvaldo Alonso and Gonzalo Pineda do the same for Seattle, vying for control of the midfield.
How to watch: The match will be televised nationally on NBC Sports Network, with kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m.