Sounders: 10 things to know ahead of crucial game with Real Salt Lake
By Paul Taylor
Wednesday night provided some much-needed distraction, at least for Raul Ruidiaz and Jordan Morris. The Sounders duo took part in the MLS All-Star Game, with the former scoring what turned out to be the winning goal, courtesy of a penalty kick.
This aside, the Sounders and their fans are still dealing with their stoppage-time defeat in Atlanta last weekend. They had done more than enough to deserve a share of the spoils, but ultimately lost their fourth consecutive away game and dropped to 3-8-1 on their league travels this year.
This makes Sunday's game with Real Salt Lake that much more important, with Seattle entering the weekend just outside a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Here are 10 things to know, ahead of the game at Lumen Field:
1) Real Salt Lake has a slight advantage in the all-time head-to-head meetings between the two sides. They have 17 wins compared to 15 by the Sounders, with the other six games ending in draws.
Still searching for some consistency, the Seattle Sounders at least will be playing at Lumen Field on Sunday night for their matchup with a Real Salt Lake team also struggling for form of late.
2) RSL has been a particularly tough opponent for Seattle of late, having won two and drawn one the last three times they have met. The most recent matchup came in the second game of this season, as the Claret and Cobalt took the three points with a closely-contested 1-0 win.
3) The Sounders will still have the bitter taste of last year's playoff loss to Real Salt Lake in their mouths. Seattle were heavy favorites but lost 6-5 in a penalty shootout, with RSL being the only road team to advance from Round One.
4) Seattle is struggling for consistency of late, with a poor run of six defeats in their last nine regular season matches and currently sitting on 32 points. This is tied for their second fewest points ever after 24 league games; they had just 30 at the same stage in 2016.
5) As a comparison, Real Salt Lake has only won one of their last eight league games, compiling three draws and four losses in that period. The fact they remain in a playoff spot shows just how well they were playing earlier in the season.
6) Despite last year's stunning outcome in the playoffs, RSL has mostly struggled to get positive results in Seattle. More generally speaking, Sunday's visitors have yet to beat a Western Conference team on the road this year, with four draws and four losses in eight games.
7) The Sounders and Real Salt Lake are evenly matched when it comes to their attacking play, with 31 goals apiece so far in MLS this season. RSL has the slightest of edges, with a 12.5-12.3 advantage for shots per game and 4.3-4.2 for attempts on target.
8) If Seattle is going to strike first, they best opportunity would appear to be within the early stages of the game. RSL has conceded goals in the opening 15 minutes in their last three league games and in five of the previous seven.
9) The Sounders are relatively healthy now and only missing Obed Vargas and Joao Paulo for the game against Real Salt Lake. Vargas has been out for multiple weeks with a lower back stress fracture, while Paulo is lost for the season after suffering a right ACL tear.
10) Talking to the media on Thursday, Stefan Frei maintained a balance between being positive but also acknowledging the need for some urgency. He said:
"The good thing is it feels like it's in our hands. We're playing a lot of teams that are in the mix and so it's up to us; it gives us a lot of control, which is great. But number one is to take care of business at home. (Sunday) is a huge one, a massive game. Frustration and jubilation and all those emotions you feel throughout the year. We've just got to put that aside and go back to the bread and butter, which is working hard on a daily basis. Because ultimately, it's the only thing that's going to get you results. "
* Statistics courtesy of soundersfc.com
What's your prediction for Sunday night's game? Will the Sounders win, draw, or lose and why? Let us know in the comments section below.