Preview: RSL, Sounders kick off West semis at Rio Tinto
REAL SALT LAKE v SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC
Sat., Oct. 29, Rio Tinto Stadium (8 p.m. MT; FOX Soccer; TSN2)
REFEREE: Mark Geiger, SAR (bench): Joe Fletcher; JAR (opposite): Steven Taylor;
4th: Silviu Petrescu
INJURY REPORT: REAL SALT LAKE -- OUT: MF Nelson Gonz·lez (R foot fracture); DOUBTFUL: FW Cody Arnoux (L hamstring strain); QUESTIONABLE: DF Tony Beltran (L adductor strain); MF Ned Grabavoy (L adductor strain); PROBABLE: GK Kyle Reynish (R ankle bone spur) ... SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC -- OUT: GK Terry Boss (concussion); MF Michael Seamon (lateral ankle tendon); MF Steve Zakuani (R leg fracture); FW O'Brian White (leg surgery); DOUBTFUL: GK Josh Ford (knee pain); QUESTIONABLE: MF Mauro Rosales (MCL sprain); PROBABLE: MF Amadou Sanyang (knee sprain)
LEAGUE HEAD-TO-HEAD: RSL 2 wins, 5 GF ... SEA 2 wins, 6 GF ... Ties 2
2011 HEAD-TO-HEAD: SEA 1 win, 3 GF ... RSL 1 win, 3 GF ... Ties 0
AT RIO TINTO STADIUM
- 5/28: RSL 1, SEA 2 (Gonzalez 87 - Ianni 72; Neagle 84)
MLS CUP PLAYOFFS: first meeting
REAL SALT LAKE
- Real Salt Lake come into the postseason not having won since Sept. 21, a 3-1 win against New York. "We got to win one soon, eventually, so I guess the best time to do it is in the playoffs. For the most part, these past two weeks we've been playing our butts off," said defender Chris Wingert.
- The six-game winless run followed a five-game winning streak, which included a 2-1 win at Seattle. "I don't think we've played a good [full game] of soccer in quite a while," defender Nat Borchers said. "I think we put together about 93 minutes against Portland and then we obviously gave that goal at the end. So I think really getting a full game in, being switched on and focused throughout is really crucial. In the playoffs, one goal can hurt you, so we're going to have to be prepared for anything that can happen."
- A key to the RSL scheme will be the renewed partnership of Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales in the center of midfield. Since Morales suffered a broken ankle in April, the pair have not played together. Morales has started the last four matches, but Beckerman has been suspended.
- "In a lot of ways up until the suspension Kyle was our most consistent performer this year, and was in talks for MVP consideration and I think he deserved that," said RSL head coach Jason Kreis. "He had taken a lot of the burden of not having Javier on his own shoulders, and had stepped up his game in how he was creating for us, and his play on dead-ball situations."
- Will Johnson also returned to the lineup for the season finale after missing two games to a sprained ankle.
- "It was up and down for sure, with injuries and call-ups. We had our great streak, our worst streak, and I think right now we are almost where we want to be," said goalkeeper Nick Rimando. "We're getting some great players back just in time for the playoffs and all these streaks go away once you start the playoffs."
- Kreis might also be able to call upon midfielder Ned Grabavoy and fullback Tony Beltran, who returned to full training ahead of the Portland game but did not figure.
SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC
- After suffering a knee injury in the season finale at Chivas USA, midfielder Mauro Rosales is not likely to be available for the first leg.
- "We have to let it calm down and then we can see how it proceeds from there," said Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid. "For this weekend, it's probably iffy. For [the second leg on Nov. 2 in Seattle], we'll see."
- The likely candidate to fill the position is Lamar Neagle, who started five of the last nine league games. "You can't really replace Rosales, but I can just do the same thing I have been doing all year with my work ethic," Neagle said. "I think that's the main thing I bring to the game. I'm not as technically sound as Rosales, obviously, but just working as hard as I can. I feel like I have some speed, so hopefully I'll be able to get in behind them and serve some good balls in and cause some trouble."
- Schmid could also have a choice to make in attack. Mike Fucito started the last three games, and seven of the last nine. But Sammy Ochoa has scored coming off the bench in each of the last two games.
- "I thought Sammy played well. He's been a good pickup for us; he knows how to play the game and he does a good job holding the ball up for us as well," Schmid said. "He's courageous. He had to stick his head in there for the third goal, and he's willing to do that kind of thing. He's definitely been a very good addition to our team."
- Since the middle of June, Sounders FC have not gone consecutive league games without a victory. "Everything goes out the window now. It doesn't matter what we did today, three months ago or at the beginning of the season," said goalkeeper Kasey Keller. "It's just two games now, and we have to come out and play the way we're capable of playing and we'll be all right."
- In four games in the MLS Cup Playoffs all-time, Seattle has scored one goal -- from Steve Zakuani in a 2-1 loss to LA in the Western semifinal second leg last year. "We've told our team that if we play to zero we'll find a way to score. We've shown that capability all year," said Schmid.