The first of many – Scouting Report v RSL

With only three matches remaining in the MLS regular season, tonight’s brawl between Seattle Sounders FC and Real Salt Lake could secure a knock-out round bye for the Rave Green, and great playoff position.

Tonight will be the team’s third meeting this season wit RSL winning the first one in Seattle, and the two sides drawing at Rio Tinto Stadium. Three points tonight for Seattle though puts them ahead of RSL with a game in hand, essentially locking in a top three finish and putting them into a perfect position for a second place finish – the same spot they finished in last season.

Either way it looks as though the two teams will finish second and third and create the same playoff matching that saw RSL defeat the Sounders in the first round of the MLS Cup playoffs one year ago. The second place position is also key in point gathering in case the Sounders get to the final with the opportunity to host.

The only mid-week game for MLS during the FIFA international break, both sides may be without key players although several of them are coming back early and could have an impact on the match. For Seattle, recent US Men’s National Team hero Eddie Johnson, who is fresh off his two goal, one assist week for the Yanks is back in the Emerald City and will most likely start on the bench. For RSL, midfielder Kyle Beckerman and goalkeeper Nick Rimando are also back from USMNT duty, but did not play in either match, so they may play a bigger role for their side.

Also out of the Sounders are right back Adam Johansson (Sweeden – suck it Germany), Mario Martinez (two goals for Honduras), Leo Gonzalez (hamstring) and possibly Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (facial fracture).

Three Keys –

1. Fredy needs to be at top form. Without the airal threat of Johnson on the pitch, Montero and Co. will be playing a quick-passing ground game. Fredy will have chances, but he needs to finish them off for the Rave Green to grab all three points.

2. Keep Rosales and Tiffert healthy. It was around this time last season when Mauro Rosales and the Sounders MLS Cup chances) went down for the year. Rosales and Christian Tiffert are huge parts of the Sounders midfield and they need to be protected in what will be a very physical match.

3. Don’t give Burch or Scott the ball. No Johansson or Gonzalez likely means that Zach Scott and Marc Burch will get the outside back spots. No the challenge is not giving them the ball. Scott is a good defender but looks lost in any type of possession while Burch has struggled to find any form in the past two months.

Projected Starting XI –

GK, Michael Gspurning
CB, Jeff Parke    CB, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado*
RB, Zach Scott**                               LB, Marc Burch
CM, Osvaldo Alonso
RM, Mauro Rosales          LM, Brad Evans
CAM, Christian Tiffert
FW, Fredy Montero        FW, Sammy Ochoa

* Patrick Ianni could also start in this spot
* Brad Evans could start in this spot which means Steve Zakuani would be the LM

Projection –

Believe it or not, I don’t like picking winners in matches like these, especially when it’s really unknown who will play for either side. The Sounders defense without a healthy center back or both outside backs is terrifying. On the other side, RSL is missing a lot of their attack. This one ends 2-2 with gaps on both sides.

Links and other important stuff –

Here is Sounder at Heart’s preview of the match

Video of Martinez’s goals for Honduras.