SANDY, Utah — With one day left to prepare for the second leg of the Western Conference Semifinals, Real Salt Lake appear to be inching closer to their preferred starting lineup against the Seattle Sounders.
RSL nearly fielded their best group in the scoreless series opener last Friday, but question marks still remain around the health of both center back Jámison Olave and forward Fabián Espíndola heading into the series finale at Rio Tinto Stadium on Thursday (10 pm ET; NBCSN, LIVE chat on MLSsoccer.com).
Olave subbed in for Kwame Watson-Siriboe in the 76th minute, while Espíndola subbed off at halftime after feeling a bit of a twinge in his hamstring.
"I think we have some that are getting better and some that we are not sure about," head coach Jason Kreis said. "Nobody is getting worse, though, I think. We are heading in the right direction, but still a lot of question marks heading into Thursday."
RSL are focusing just as much on the health of the Sounders, who could play without playmaking midfielder Mauro Rosales but should see the return of striker Eddie Johnson from a hamstring injury that kept him out of the opener.
"You need to talk about if Eddie plays, these are his tendencies, these are the team's tendencies when he's on the field. [It's the] same thing with Rosales,” Kreis said. “This is where the team tends to look when he's on the field, and this is where the team looks when he's not on the field — jus be prepared for everything."
RSL’s players and coaches know just how important it is to be ready for the pair because of what both Johnson and Rosales can do on the field.
"He's a fast player, no doubt about it, and he's a guy that gets on the end of things in the box this year. He's added that to his game this year with how many goals he's scored with his head," Kreis said of Johnson, his teammate with Dallas during the 2004 season. "Two things you have to be really careful of, of course, is him playing in behind, and then where he's at in the box. He's certainly a player we that we're going to need to key on."
Rosales, meanwhile, will be a game-time decision for Seattle while he battles an hamstring injury.
"He's an excellent player," RSL defender Chris Wingert said. "Hopefully, I'll do my job and he's not torching us too much. That's part of my responsibility, to make sure he's not on the ball a lot. We know how talented he is and hopefully a lot of their goals aren't coming from his service."