Seattle Sounders FC
The team isn’t playing, but Wednesday night is going to be huge for Real Salt Lake.
Two games with massive implications for the Claret-and-Cobalt will take place tomorrow night, with Seattle hosting Vancouver at CenturyLink Field (8:00 p.m. MT; MLS Live) and San Jose hosting Colorado at Buck Shaw Stadium (8:30 p.m. MT; MLS Live).
RSL could clinch a postseason berth pending the result of the San Jose-Colorado match, with a Rapids win or tie in the Bay Area securing the Claret-and-Cobalt’s sixth-straight MLS Cup Playoff appearance. Of course, a result for the Rapids would pull Colorado closer to RSL in the Western Conference standings. With the Rapids just four points back of the Claret-and-Cobalt at the moment, that might not be the best thing.
As several pointed out on Twitter, this whole situation has led to a bit of internal conflict for some of us here in the office.
@RealSaltLake But a San Jose win would put your chief rival one step closer to losing out on a playoff berth. The enemy of your enemy...
— Robert Jonas (@robertjonas) October 8, 2013
@robertjonas Well now we're conflicted.
— Real Salt Lake (@RealSaltLake) October 8, 2013
Moving past the Quakes-Rapids contest – and our minor existential crisis – the Seattle-Vancouver matchup is oozing with Western Conference and Supporters’ Shield implications. There’s no dilemma here: RSL fans will be rooting for the ‘Caps to pull the upset in this Cascadia clash.
Seattle is currently one point behind RSL for the West lead and two points behind the New York Red Bulls in the chase for the Supporters’ Shield. The Sounders have two games in hand on both the Claret-and-Cobalt and New York, meaning that Seattle will need to drop a result or two down the stretch for RSL to have a shot at the West crown and the Supporters’ Shield. No better time for that than tomorrow, when the Sounders will be without U.S. internationals Brad Evans and Eddie Johnson against a Vancouver side fighting tooth-and-nail for its playoff life.
Real Salt Lake’s Supporters’ Shield hopes took a hit on Friday night, with the Claret-and-Cobalt’s 2-0 loss at Seattle dropping the Utah side out of first place, one point behind Sounders FC in the Western Conference and Shield races.
Seattle’s points lead and its two games in hand on RSL place the Sounders firmly in the driver’s seat for the Supporters’ Shield and Western Conference crowns. But that doesn’t mean the Claret-and-Cobalt is out of either race – far from it, in fact.
We’ve broken down the Supporters’ Shield race, analyzing the schedules of the top-five teams based on points per game. Check it out:
1 – Seattle Sounders FC
Current points: 49
Current points per game: 1.81
League standings: 1st
Points per game standings: 1st
MLS games remaining: 7
Maximum possible points: 70
Opponents’ average points: 43.14
Remaining schedule: Sept. 21 at LA, Sept. 29 v. NY, Oct. 5 at COL, Oct. 9 v. VAN, Oct. 13 at POR, Oct. 19 at DAL, Oct. 27 v. LA
Rundown: Seattle took charge in the Supporters’ Shield race by beating RSL, with the Sounders now controlling their own destiny with a maximum of 70 possible points. While Seattle is the current front-runner, the Sounders do have a very tough schedule down the stretch, with all seven of its matches coming against teams still fighting for their playoff lives. Among the Rave Green’s toughest remaning matches are this Saturday’s contest at LA, the Oct. 5 game at Colorado, the Oct. 13 match at Portland and the Oct. 27 regular season finale against the Galaxy.
2 – Montreal Impact
Current points: 45
Current points per game: 1.67
League standings: 4th (Ahead of KC, COL on tiebreaker)
Points per game standings: 2nd
MLS games remaining: 7
Maximum possible points: 66
Opponents’ average points: 37.14
Remaining schedule: Sept. 21 v. VAN, Sept. 25 v. HER**, Sept. 28 at CHI, Oct. 4 at HOU, Oct. 12 v. NE, Oct. 16 at LA, Oct. 19 v. PHI, Oct. 26 at TOR
Rundown: One of the surprise teams of the season, Montreal has put itself in a good spot to take home the 2013 Supporters’ Shield. The Impact’s seven remaining games are tied with Seattle for most in the league, and its 1.67 points per game average is second only to the Sounders. Montreal also has a relatively easier schedule compared to the other Shield contenders, with its opponents’ average of 37.14 points higher than only RSL’s and Kansas City’s totals. One potential stumbling block for the Impact could be fixture congestion: Marco Di Vaio and Co. will play eight times before the season ends, including a crucial CONCACAF Champions League match against Guatemala’s CD Heredia on Sept. 25.
3 – Real Salt Lake
Current points: 48
Current points per game: 1.66
League rank: 2nd (Ahead of NY on tiebreaker)
Points per game rank: T-3rd
MLS games remaining: 5
Maximum possible points: 63
Opponents’ average points: 37
Remaining schedule: Sept. 21 v. SJ, Sept. 28 at VAN, Oct. 1 v. DC*, Oct. 5 v. DAL, Oct. 19 at POR, Oct. 23 v. CHV
Rundown: RSL has one of the easier schedules among the Supporters’ Shield contenders, with its opponents’ average points clocking in at 37, second-lowest only to Sporting Kansas City. The downside: RSL only has five matches remaining in which to gain points, two fewer than fellow contenders Seattle and Montreal, one less than Kansas City and even with New York.
4 – New York Red Bulls
Current points: 48
Current points per game: 1.66
League standings: 3rd (Trailing RSL on tiebreaker)
Points per game standings: T-3rd
MLS games remaining: 5
Maximum possible points: 63
Opponents’ average points: 41
Remaining schedule: Sept. 22 v. DAL, Sept. 29 at SEA, Oct. 5 v. NE, Oct. 20 at HOU, Oct. 27 v. CHI
Rundown: New York is streaking at the moment, having won three matches in a row over DC, Houston and Toronto. While they’re hot, the Red Bulls have a difficult schedule remaining, with the five matches left on the schedule all coming against teams still in the playoff race. New York’s toughest remaining match is also the most important for its Supporters’ Shield hopes: Sept. 29 against the Sounders at CenturyLink Field.
5 – Sporting Kansas City
Current points: 45
Current points per game: 1.61
League standings: 5th (Trailing MTL on tiebreaker)
Points per game standings: 5th
MLS games remaining: 6
Maximum possible points: 63
Opponents’ average points: 31.83
Remaining schedule: Sept. 21 at TOR, Sept. 27 v. PHI, Oct. 5 at CLB, Oct. 9 at HOU, Oct. 18 v. DC, Oct. 23 v. OLI**, Oct. 26 at PHI
Rundown: Kansas City has a bit of work to do to climb closer to Seattle in the Supporters’ Shield race, needing wins on the road – Sporting plays four of its remaining six MLS matches away from home – to challenge the Seattle’s of the world. Thankfully for KC, its schedule is probably the easiest of the five teams listed, taking on lowly Toronto on Saturday, playing at Columbus on Oct. 5 and hosting league cellar-dwellers DC on Oct. 18.
Real Salt Lake lost a tough one at Seattle on Friday, falling 2-0 to the Sounders at CenturyLink Field.
Here are a few interesting numbers from the match:
Friday’s crowd of 55,107 at Seattle was the largest crowd RSL has ever played in front of. Seattle is now 6-0-0 when playing in front of home crowds of at least 55,000 people.
Friday’s shutout broke RSL’s streak of 23 consecutive games across all competitions scoring a goal. The last time Real Salt Lake was shutout prior to Friday night was on April 27, when the Claret-and-Cobalt fell 2-0 to the LA Galaxy at Rio Tinto Stadium. RSL still leads MLS in goals scored with 52 through 29 regular season games.
Friday’s loss broke RSL’s five-game unbeaten streak on artificial turf. The Claret-and-Cobalt’s last loss on turf came on Aug. 11, 2012, when RSL fell 2-1 at Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
Friday’s loss dropped Real Salt Lake out of first place in both the Supporters’ Shield and Western Conference races. RSL now trails Seattle by one point in both the West and MLS races, with the Sounders holding two games in hand on the Utah side.
RSL’s five remaining MLS opponents have an average of 37 points this year. That total would place behind eight teams in the Western Conference and would be tied for 15th in the league table.
With a nearly full-strength side, Real Salt Lake travels to Seattle for a match that could tilt the scales in MLS, with effects cascading down the table should RSL lose out. Jason Kreis's side, then, has a difficult task in front of them, in a difficult stadium, against a difficult side.
It is important for RSL to notch a win against Seattle, but this will be one of the more difficult MLS matches for Kreis to manage. Should his side adopt an overly defensive posture, it might be difficult to grab that win — constitutionally, we're not a side that thrives when sitting back in an organized fashion. Should they adopt an overly offensive posture, it might be difficult to preserve any goalscoring advantage maintained. Thus, striking that balance will be the impetus laid before Kreis.
This largely becomes the role of the midfield to maintain that balance: The match ebbs and flows by the actions they take. The forwards are important in that they must follow the lead of the midfield and adapt their play, and the defenders are important in that they must respond to the threats that emerge as a result of the balance. But it is the role of the midfield to dictate it, and with three veterans certain to start, that shouldn't be too difficult.
Kyle Beckerman: He is the player through which all things must pass, whether it is directly (passes to and from him) or indirectly (play being dictated by him, whether by literal communication or by his movement). He'll be important in relaying play to wide players, and ensuring that play circulates through the midfield.
Ned Grabavoy: He is the player tasked with perhaps the most work of the three veterans, and he'll be required to both help out defending against wide players and to push play through the midfield. His ability to maintain possession will be vital here, particularly against the Sounders midfield; this will give all other players more time to adapt off-the-ball and to provide new outlets.
Javier Morales: He is the player responsible for creating the deadliest of chances and to stretch play laterally both through his movement and through his distribution to forwards. This will open room for the other midfielders — Grabavoy and the other central midfielder in the diamond, perhaps Luis Gil — and the forwards in the areas in which they can do the most damage.
No player has an easier job than any other on the night, but by ensuring that their responsibilities are fulfilled, the collective burden will be lifted, and the wall of 55,000 fans in Seattle can be disappointed once again.
Real Salt Lake will play on national television for the third and final time this regular season on Friday, traveling to the Pacific Northwest to take on Seattle Sounders FC at 8:00 p.m. on Friday night on NBC Sports Network.
Oddly enough, Friday’s match is RSL’s second-straight game that will be broadcast nationally, coming on the heels of the Claret-and-Cobalt’s 4-2 win over the Portland Timbers on Aug. 30 on NBCSN.
That game – as detailed here – rated very well, drawing approximately 70,000 more viewers than the average MLS match on NBC Sports Network so far this year. The match was a great spectacle for the league and RSL, showcasing the Claret-and-Cobalt’s attractive brand of play in front of an electric, sold-out crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Observers around the country took a little bit more notice of RSL following the nationally televised Portland win, praising the team’s solid style, various individual players and Head Coach Jason Kreis.
— Sebastian Salazar (@SebiSalazarCSN) August 31, 2013
Real's name, Barça's game. #RSL
— Keith Hickey (@usarsnl) August 31, 2013
I'm just excited to see Salt Lake on national TV #MLS
— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) August 31, 2013
RSL absolutely rolling, with Gil, Grabavoy and Plata all playing well, supporting their established stars. They will be tough to stop.
— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) August 31, 2013
We're all lucky for Javi Morales being able to recover from that kind of serious injury and re-discover his previous level of play.
— Andy Edwards (@AndyEdMLS) August 31, 2013
That national notice is good for RSL – it boosts recognition for the club, putting the players and technical staff on the big stage they so richly deserve. It gives guys like Kreis, Nick Rimando, Javier Morales, Kyle Beckerman, Alvaro Saborio, Tony Beltran and Ned Grabavoy a larger platform for well-earned end-of-season recognition.
The best way for RSL to continue getting that increased recognition is to be on national TV more than three times a season. And the best way for RSL to get on national TV more? Other than continued fantastic results – thanks team, you’re the reason we’re all here – it’s all about you, the fan, tuning-in in droves when the Claret-and-Cobalt are on a national broadcast.
Do your part this Friday. Park yourself on the couch, belly up to the bar or roll over to your buddy’s place and turn that dial to NBC Sports Network – channel 695/34 on Comcast, 220 on DirecTV and 159 on Dish – to watch RSL battle Seattle for Western Conference and Supporters’ Shield supremacy at 8:00 p.m. MT at CenturyLink Field.
Most teams around the league struggle against MLS’s three Cascadian clubs. It’s not hard to see why: Seattle, Portland and Vancouver all have deep pockets, talented rosters, strong support, and play on difficult-to-deal with turf fields.
Of course, most teams around MLS aren’t Real Salt Lake.
The Claret-and-Cobalt has been dominant against the three Cascadian clubs over the last two seasons, posting a 10-2-4 record in all competitions against the Sounders, Timbers and Whitecaps since the start of 2012. RSL is unbeaten against the three sides so far this year, posting 4-0-2 record through four home games and two road matches against them in all comps.
RSL has also been very solid when playing on the road at Seattle, Portland and Vancouver, currently riding a four-game unbeaten streak in Cascadia. The Claret-and-Cobalt has a combined 2-1-4 road mark at the Sounders, Timbers and Whitecaps since the start of 2012.
Jason Kreis and Co. will put their solid run against the Cascadian clubs on the line this Friday, when they take on Seattle Sounders FC in a battle of the West’s top two teams at CenturyLink Field. Friday’s match – which has huge implications for both the Supporters’ Shield race and MLS Cup Playoff seeding – will kick off at 8:00 p.m. MT and will be broadcast nationally on the NBC Sports Network.
Should RSL earn a fifth-straight result in the Pacific Northwest on Friday, it'll have to do it in front of a huge crowd. Seattle – which usually restricts attendance at CenturyLink Field to a little under 40,000 – has opened up the entire stadium for Friday’s affair, with full capacity reaching upwards of 67,000.
— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) September 11, 2013
One last note: RSL’s 18 road points this year are tied for tops in the league with Kansas City, while Seattle enters Friday’s match on a team record 12-game regular season unbeaten streak at home.
Something could very well give on Friday. Make sure you tune-in to see it all unfold.
There was some chatter on Wednesday regarding whether or not RSL Captain Kyle Beckerman would be able to play in Friday’s crucial MLS contest at Seattle Sounders FC after going the full 90 for the U.S. in its 2-0 win over Mexico in Columbus on Tuesday night.
Beckerman answered that question pretty definitively upon his return to Salt Lake on Wednesday afternoon, indicating to reporters at the Salt Lake City International Airport that’d he’d be ready for Friday’s critical clash at CenturyLink Field.
Beckerman said the turnaround is the same as Wednesday to Saturday, and he should be ready for Friday's game in Seattle.
— Aaron Falk (@aaronfalk) September 11, 2013
Of course, two Seattle Sounders players took the field for the U.S. with Beckerman on Tuesday night, with Clint Dempsey logging a full 90 and Eddie Johnson scoring a goal before going off with an apparent head injury in the 76th minute.
Sounders Head Coach Sigi Schmid commented today on the status of Dempsey and Johnson, telling Don Ruiz of the Tacoma News-Tribune and other Seattle media that Johnson’s head bump from Tuesday’s game does not call for a concussion protocol, and that both players are scheduled to train with the Cascadia club on Thursday.
“[Eddie] is fine,” Schmid said. “They both say they feel pretty good, but we’ll see how they feel tomorrow…. I don’t think the [U.S. Soccer trainer] classified it as a concussion. I think they said more right now it’s just a sore next, and Eddie said he felt fine today.”
In other Sounders injury news, reports indicate that Seattle defender/midfielder Brad Evans’ status is up in the air for Friday’s match due to a sprained calf and that midfielder Shalrie Joseph will miss the match due to a sprained knee.
Real Salt Lake will take on Seattle for the third and final time this regular season on Friday, facing off against the Sounders in an absolutely crucial Western Conference battle at 8:00 p.m. MT (NBC Sports Network) at CenturyLink Field.
RSL is 2-0-0 against Seattle so far this year, getting goals from Robbie Findley and Luis Gil to topple the Sounders 2-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium on March 30 and notching strikes from Kyle Beckerman and Findley to power past the Cascadia side 2-0 at home on June 22.
Check out highlights from both of RSL's 2013 wins over Seattle below:
March 30 - RSL 2-1 Seattle
June 22 - RSL 2-0 Seattle
Real Salt Lake put in an incredibly professional performance on Saturday night against Seattle, bossing the game and beating the Sounders 2-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Here are a few interesting numbers from the match:
Real Salt Lake now has 30 points this season, tied with Portland for the most in MLS. The Claret-and-Cobalt – which, it’s worth noting, has played more games than most teams in the league – has more wins than Portland and is technically in first-place in the league.
Saturday’s win was RSL’s fifth straight across all competitions dating back to its 3-2 victory over the NASL Atlanta Silverbacks in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup third-round on May 28. RSL is now unbeaten in its last seven games across all competitions.
Real Salt Lake outshot Seattle by the ridiculous margin of 17-2 on Saturday. Sounders FC’s first shot didn’t come until the 73rd minute; the Cascadia club’s only shot on goal was in the 82nd.
RSL Captain Kyle Beckerman became MLS’s all-time leader in fouls committed on Saturday night. He now has 478 career fouls in regular season play, one more than previous record holder/former MLS midfielder Jesse Marsch.
The number of team’s remaining in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Real Salt Lake will look to move into the tournament’s final four on Wednesday night, when it will host the second-division Carolina RailHawks at 7:30 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium. Get your tickets here.
Real Salt Lake and Seattle have formed somewhat of a rivalry over the years, and though it's no longer in its nascent stages, there's bound to be plenty of talk about it. But despite the familiarity of the two opponents, some things this time around are a little different.
Seattle is a familiar enemy, but without the likes of Osvaldo Alonso, they'll take on a different look. Since 2010, Alonso has missed only one MLS match against Real Salt Lake; he'll miss his second tonight, according to reports. Without their hard-tackling, short-passing midfielder Real Salt Lake should have a little more freedom to play through the middle, but any relaxing on our part would be remiss.
Still, while Alonso's absence bodes well (but not so well as to allow us a moment to relax), it does rather sting when we know we once again won't be able to see Alonso and Beckerman going at it in the midfield. Remember, if anybody asks you which of the two is better, simply point to a passing chart and ask how many of Alonso's are forward-moving compared to Beckerman's. It quite clearly illustrates the distinction between the two. (Here's a number: Beckerman's passes are 43 percent forward-moving; only 26 percent of Alonso's are.)
Injuries and adjustment
With RSL playing up the middle — which, if we're to be honest, isn't unusual — the deeper midfielders will have greater responsibility. Undoubtedly, Javier Morales will still move into wide positions, and the outside-diamond players will make diagonal runs to and from the flanks, but it's when they're closer to their starting spots that they'll have the best options emerge. Seattle is a team that notably plays well out wide, with Alonso covering huge swathes of ground in the middle. They'll miss that.
Without Kwame Watson-Siriboe and Chris Schuler, another chance for young defender Carlos Salcedo has been created; he'll be looking to put in a good shift with some questions about the necessity of an acquisition looming. Expect his partnership with Nat Borchers to see Borchers stay deeper and Salcedo to step slightly further forward, particularly as we look to win long balls in the air. This match will almost certainly see plenty of those.
In a sense, we're somewhat lucky that Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando consistently join with the national team only to not play. They are, one would imagine, less fatigued than those players who put 90 minute shifts in. Though we missed no MLS matches with those two gone this time, there's still a palpable sense of relief at their uninjured return. Seattle does receive Brad Evans and Eddie Johnson back from United States duty and Mario Martinez from Honduras, but the two former played high numbers of minutes and may be in doubt for the match so as to allow some recovery time for the pair.