Seattle Sounders vs. Real Salt Lake | MLS Match Preview

SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC vs REAL SALT LAKE
CENTURYLINK FIELD, Seattle, Wash.
May 31, 2014 (WEEK 13, MLS Game #116)
1 p.m. PT (KCPQ-13 FOX; KTVA-ABC)

A massive match in the Western Conference is ahead on Saturday afternoon when Seattle Sounders FC welcome Real Salt Lake to CenturyLink Field. Sounders FC hold the best record in the division and all of Major League Soccer, following their last 2-2 draw at Cascadia rivals Vancouver Whitecaps FC last weekend. Real Salt Lake extended their undefeated start to the season to MLS-record proportions last time out in a home scoreless draw with FC Dallas, leaving them two points behind Seattle in both the West and MLS tables.

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REFEREE: Ricardo Salazar. AR1 (bench): James Conlee; AR2 (opposite): Gianni Facchini; 4th: Tyler Ploeger
MLS Career: 186 games; FC/gm: 26.8; Y/gm: 3.4; R: 54; pens: 66

SUSPENDED: none
WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: SEA: Osvaldo Alonso - RSL: Javier Morales
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: SEA: Gonzalo Pineda - RSL: Alvaro Saborio, Chris Schuler
DISABLED LIST: SEA: Damion Lowe; Kevin Parsemain
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: SEA: Clint Dempsey, DeAndre Yedlin (USA) - RSL: Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando (USA); Alvaro Saborio (CRC)

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (12 meetings): Sounders FC 3 wins, 10 goals - Real 5 wins, 11 goals - Ties 4
AT SEATTLE (6 meetings): Sounders FC 2 wins, 5 goals - Real 2 wins, 3 goals - Ties 2
RETURN MATCHES: 8/16: Real Salt Lake vs. Seattle Sounders FC, 12:30 p.m. MT; 9/12: Seattle Sounders FC vs. Real Salt Lake, 7:30 p.m. PT

LAST YEAR (MLS):
3/30: RSL 2, SEA 1 (Findley 8; Gil 35 - Evans 57)
6/22: RSL 2, SEA 0 (Beckerman 41; Findley 46)
9/13: SEA 2, RSL 0 (Martins 3; Neagle 38)

  • The teams met three times a season ago, each winning on their home ground - Real won twice at Rio Tinto Stadium, and Sounders FC once at CenturyLink Field.
  • The teams also met in the MLS Cup Playoffs in both 2011 and 2012, Real advancing 3-2 on aggregate in 2011, and Sounders FC winning the series 1-0 in 2012.
  • Coaches record: Sigi Schmid vs. RSL: P18 W6 L7 T5 | Jeff Cassar vs. SEA: first game

SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC
Seattle Sounders FC came back for a 2-2 draw against arch-rivals Vancouver Whitecaps FC last time out, Saturday afternoon at BC Place. Sounders FC are in first place in the Western Conference with 26 points from 13 games.

LAST MATCH

  • Sounders FC took the lead in the 36th minute, as Chad Barrett got on the end of Kenny Cooper cross, easily outjumping a defender to power a header home from 12 yards out.
  • But Vancouver hit back three minutes later when Erik Hurtado started and finished off a neat three-man passing move by weaving his way into the box, leaving two Seattle defenders on the deck before firing high into the roof of the net to tie the score at 1-1.
  • Whitecaps FC took the lead in the 66th minute when goalkeeper Stefan Frei tried to prevent a corner but instead cleared the ball upfield straight to Gershon Koffie, who chested it down before lobbing the ball home from 35 yards into the empty net.
  • But Seattle grabbed a share of the points with eight minutes remaining when referee Ismail Elfath pointed to the spot after ruling a foul by Whitecaps defender Jay DeMerit in the box, and Gonzalo Pineda hit home from the penalty spot for the equalizer.
  • Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid made two changes to the team that defeated the San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 at CenturyLink Field. Djimi Traore came into the back four for Chad Marshall, and Chad Barrett started in the midfield in place of Lamar Neagle.
  • SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC (4-4-2): Stefan Frei - Jalil Anibaba, Zach Scott, Djimi Traore (Brad Evans 56), Leo Gonzalez - Chad Barrett (Cam Weaver 79), Gonzalo Pineda, Osvaldo Alonso, Marco Pappa - Kenny Cooper (Michael Azira 71), Obafemi Martins.

TEAM NEWS

  • Ever-present in the Sounders FC midfield since March 23, Gonzalo Pineda scored his first career MLS goal, converting a penalty kick for the game-tying goal.
  • "Coach said it could be Oba [Martins], could be Brad [Evans], could be me," Pineda said. "I know I just felt the confidence and said. 'This is my time.'"
  • Chad Barrett scored his second goal of the season, his first since scoring Sounders FC's first goal of the campaign in their 1-0 win vs. Sporting KC on March 8.
  • Barrett was making his first start of the season, after seven substitute appearances, coming on the right of the midfield, coming off after 79 minutes.
  • "It was my first time playing in this kind of an atmosphere, this kind of a game all season. Reserve games don't really replicate this," Barrett said. "They're a fast team. I had to work a little playing a little out of position, and I just got a little tired, cramp."
  • There could be a question in central defense for the RSL match. Chad Marshall missed the Vancouver contest with an illness, after playing every minute of the opening 12 matches. Djimi Traore was then forced off just after halftime with a groin strain.
  • "When you look at the players we're missing in total and losing Marshall right before the game with an illness and losing Djimi Traore as well made it a little difficult," Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid said. "We had to make some unusual changes and substitutions."
  • There were indications Schmid could also be looking at a change in goal. Stefan Frei has played every minute of Sounders FC's opening 13 league games.
  • "The one thing he's shown in the two games he's made an error is that he's shown the character to stay focused and come up with some big saves," Schmid said. "So you have to give him a positive mark for that, as well. It's something we'll evaluate, and there is constantly competition in that position."
  • Said Frei: "Disappointed with my own performance. I made good saves and whatnot, but just a stupid little error. Just have to be a bit smarter. It's not that I didn't make a save that I was supposed to make or anything like that. Just like I said, a stupid error."

REAL SALT LAKE
Real Salt Lake tied the MLS record with their 12th game without loss to start the season, reaching a scoreless draw with FC Dallas on Saturday evening at Rio Tinto Stadium. RSL are in second place in the Western Conference with 24 points from 12 matches.

LAST MATCH

  • The closest either team came to scoring was in the 55th minute when RSL defender Nat Borchers nearly put in a header in, only to see it cleared off the line.
  • RSL goalkeeper Jeff Attinella was called upon to make three saves to extend his club's long undefeated run, while FC Dallas goalkeeper Chris Seitz made just one save.
  • RSL head coach Jeff Cassar made no changes to the team that knocked the Colorado Rapids 2-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
  • REAL SALT LAKE (4-3-1-2): Jeff Attinella - Tony Beltran, Chris Schuler, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert - Luke Mulholland (Luis Gil 82), Cole Grossman, Ned Grabavoy - Javier Morales - Joao Plata (Olmes Garcia 42), Devon Sandoval (Robbie Findley 65).

TEAM NEWS

  • Real Salt Lake extended their season-opening undefeated streak to 12 games (6-0-6) - equaling the all-time MLS record. The Los Angeles Galaxy opened their inaugural season - and the first MLS season - with a 12-0 record (2 by shootout); the Galaxy also started 2010 and the Kansas City Wizards began 2000 with 12 games without defeat (both 10-0-2).
  • "Our soccer wasn't particularly great tonight, but I thought our fight and our commitment was. If we can get results when our soccer is not particularly great, I think that's huge," said RSL coach Jeff Cassar. "I was really proud of them, and I thought that the guys just gave it their all."
  • Said defender Chris Wingert: "I honestly don't really care [about the unbeaten streak]. Like I said, I'm happy with the zero but I wish we would have won the game, but again I think it's just too early to really even matter. I just am concerned with earning points. Usually, when we don't earn three [points] at home we're a bit disappointed."
  • Jeff Attinella recorded his second shutout in four matches in goal this season, with Nick Rimando away with the U.S. national team. Rimando has recorded two clean sheets in eight starts.
  • "I thought he was very good, I thought he was excellent. I can't remember a play that he played wrong," said Cassar. "I think he's getting more comfortable and more confident, and the players are extremely confident [in him], as well as the staff.  He's getting better and better, and more and more comfortable each game."
  • Said Attinella: "It's good. Obviously, my career so far in MLS has been a lot of late-notice starts, but to get comfortable and the game kind of slows down the more playing time you get. To get a couple of games under my belt  - I got those two earlier in the season - is obviously a big help for these games going forward because coming up, we've got a real tough week."
  • After missing five consecutive matches with an injury, Luis Gil was able to come off the substitutes' bench for a second straight game, playing the final eight minutes.
  • "We have three games in seven days coming up here - Seattle, Columbus and Portland - and we're going to need a rotation of everyone," said Cassar. "Luis is feeling good, and we're going to get him in the reserve game to get him some minutes so he's nice and sharp. He will be contributing a lot more."
  • There is an injury concern for RSL as striker Joao Plata was forced off before halftime with a hamstring injury. Plata missed three games earlier this season with a similar injury.
  • "I would anticipate that Joao is not going to be participating in this game," Cassar said, "but it's not as bad as we thought."
  • Robbie Findley made his 2014 debut, coming on as a substitute in the 65th minute. Findley had missed all of RSL's previous matches after undergoing right knee surgery last December.
  • "I'm really pleased with him. I like how he's worked to contribute to the first-team, so we couldn't be more pleased with him. We're going to need him," Cassar said.
  • Olmes Garcia also had a 48-minute shift after not featuring in either of the last two games.
  • "I thought he did a great job. He worked hard on both sides of the ball, and I think he's getting closer and closer to getting on the scoresheet. It seems like he's doing the right things.  He had a good outing in the reserve game - he's starting to come into his own," said Cassar.