Alright, everyone does their own little preview of the match and I’m no different. I think I have a bit of a different perspective so let me say my peace. We know that this game is going to be close and mostly a dog fight. The closer it gets to full time the crazy this match is going to be. While most of the national press puts the pressure on Seattle to make it out of Rio Tinto alive, the truth is the boys coming out of Salt Lake City have their own set of problems that make it conceivable that the Sounders walk out victorious.
Looking at last year the Kings of Utah haven’t scored a goal in over a month and while usually going up against teams like that it scares me I’m less worried. Injuries to Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers are going to hit the team hard. While Nick Rimando wasn’t mention in the injury report he broke his nose and while he’s certainly going to play that’s gotta be a concern of the coaching staff.
The defensive back line is vital to what Real Salt Lake does to win games. Their attack feeds from their defensive stops with quick counters lead by their wing backs and sustained by controlling the mid-field. This is something that they are going to find to be incredibly difficult against the Sounders. A team that is strong out wide and can also dominate the mid-field.
The teams are remarkably similar and seem to have the inverse in strengths. RSL seems to find capable centre backs under every rock they turnover. Likewise, the Sounders seem to produce attacking pieces like they grow on trees (they don’t do that, right?) . Both have strengths that counter what the other one does but still maintains similarities in tactics.
The key for Real Salt Lake is going to be Javier Morales producing chances. He’s the best in the business in doing it and with him healthy RSL is always going to have a sincere chance at scoring goals. The problem really has lied with Saborio and Espindola not finishing those opportunities and their problems remaining healthy.
Speaking of goals the big key for the Sounders isn’t Eddie Johnson. You can’t fault the Sounders or our fans for being excited that Eddie Johnson is back. He was our top scorer this year and I have to think that he would have likely produced a better result than Sammy Ochoa (especially in the situation of having the ball at your feet in front of the goal with no keeper to stand in the way). But the fact is that Ochoa didn’t do a bad job.
What Eddie Johnson’s return really does is free up Fredy Montero. Montero HAS to be that Fredy that we see during the regular season. If he goes the way of Alex Rodriguez the Sounders chances of actually winning this game start to dwindle.
The real key for the Sounders is just to continue to create chances. Easier said than done, I realize this. At times it’s frustrating to see how this team really struggles, even with a healthy Mauro Rosales, at putting together goal scoring opportunities. Christian Tiffert is going to have his moment to step-up and shine. This is his chance to show he can be that elite table setter for Montero and Eddie that we all believe he is.
My Starting XI for tonight:
Prediction: Sounders FC 2 – Real Salt Lake 1
I just think the Sounders have too much going for them and Salt Lake has just too much moment in the wrong direction. I really like how Richard Farely from ProSoccerTalk put it.
Mission accomplished? On paper, yes. RSL got out of CenturyLink with a draw. What road team wouldn’t take that? But Friday’s outcome was less of a moral victory than a boxer absorbing a 12-round beating only to be bailed out by the judges. Sure, you take it, but in your heart, you know you got worked.
Basically this brings us to Rocky II and sets the table for the little guy from Philly (RSL) to upset the favorite. But, let’s face it had it not been named “Rocky”, Apollo Creed owns him and sets the record straight. The Sounders attack is far more dangerous than what RSL can provide and despite playing in Sandy the injuries to the Real are legitimate and really could leave the them to be exploited.
Maybe I’ve got rose color glasses on, it wouldn’t be the first time. But it’s all about realism. There too many people that have been pretty down about our chances after the first leg. That’s understandable considering the offensive firepower that’s been rather sparse the last week and the team’s propensity to make mental mistakes on defense.
The thing is you have to look at things beyond just what our team frustrations are and realize that we have strengths too. Just like our opponents have weaknesses even though most only see their strengths.
There are, of course, fans that can’t see the holes in their teams performance and everything they touch is gold but I don’t really is a problem with that from anyone in the northwest region. Sounders are the better team here and have the moment going into this game. You can think I’m just a prototypical Sounders fan for thinking they’re going to win, but no one is going to act surprised when they do.