It’s now or never for Seattle Sounders FC.
After three years of playoff disappointment, this has to be the postseason the Sounders make their move. Failure could mean big moves in the front office, while success could turn America Rave Green.
Seattle has never had a better squad going into a postseason, and even with the slight injury to forward Eddie Johnson, the Sounders go into their Western Conference Semifinal tilt with rivals Real Salt Lake the better squad.
In every department Seattle is well… sound. And in some areas they’re flat-out brilliant. There’s no better keeper in MLS this season than Michael Gspurning, the Sounders defense ranks second in most categories, the midfield is filled with international talent and one feisty Cuban-American and the forward slots bleed with creativity and skill.
The man on the bench — Sigi Schmid — the best manager in MLS history. All things add up to an MLS Cup run for the Sounders. The only thing in their way is themselves.
Grabbing no points against LA over the weekend means the Sounders finished third in the west, therefore tonight’s opening match is at home with the away tilt will be at Rio Tinto Stadium next Thursday. Getting a win tonight is imperative — heck, make it a two-goal win while we’re at it.
It will be difficult without the ariel ability of Johnson, but that just means fans will get to see more beautiful and clinical ground work from the likes of Chrisitan Tiffert, Mauro Rosales and Fredy Montero. Add to that mix Steve Zakuani or Mario Martinez (who should start for the injured EJ) and you still have one of the MLS’ best lineups.
On the other hand, it’s massively important for the Sounders to shut down the attacking triangle of Javier Morales, Fabian Espindola and Alvaro Sabario. Also key is passing through and around the hemp-infused mess that is Kyle Beckerman.
Nick Rimando is a solid keeper for RSL, but his backline has been very injury plauged this season. Expect Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers back in action although they won’t be at 100 percent.
Keys to victory —
This being a two leg semifinal, there’s really only one key to this match — win and do it by at least two goals. Simple enough?
Injury Reports —
REAL SALT LAKE — OUT: GK Lalo Fernandez (R wrist fracture); QUESTIONABLE: DF Chris Schuler (R quad strain); PROBABLE: DF Nat Borchers (L quad strain); MF Ned Grabavoy (R quad strain); DF Jamison Olave (L hamstring strain); FW Paulo Junior (R foot contusion)
SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC — OUT: FW Babayele Sodade (R knee ACL surgery); DF Andrew Duran (L knee ACL surgery); QUESTIONABLE: DF Leo Gonzalez (R hamstring strain); FW Eddie Johnson (L adductor strain); PROBABLE: DF Patrick Ianni (R calf strain); MF Andy Rose (L adductor strain)
Projected Starting XI —
GK, Michael Gspurning
CB, Jeff Parke CB, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado
RB, Adam Johnasson LB, Marc Burch
CM, Osvaldo Alonso
RM, Mauro Rosales LM, Brad Evans
CAM, Christian Tiffert
FW, Fredy Montero FW, Mario Martinez
Game info —
Kick-off at CenturyLink Field is set for 7 p.m. tonight. Tickets are still available as an estimated 35,000 have already been sold. You can watch the match on NBC Sports Network or locally on Root Sports and KONG in Seattle.