TUKWILA, Wash. — If there’s any time for the Seattle Sounders to take on Real Salt Lake, it’s now.
The Western Conference power heads into Saturday’s game against Seattle (9 pm ET; Direct Kick, MatchDay Live) possibly missing all four forwards — Arturo Alvarez and Álvaro Saborío to international duty, and Fabián Espíndola and Paulo Araujo Jr. facing injuries.
With talk of drafting midfielders to play up front, this RSL team seems ripe for the picking. Even with the Sounders’ confidence at a low after the midweek loss to FC Dallas, a result in the first of two road games could be a boon.
"As a player, you'd much rather play as soon as possible after a loss,” said Seattle coach Sigi Schmid at training on Friday. “You'd probably rather play today and just get it out of the way and get it out of your system. The only thing that's going to make that loss go away is a win in the next game. The sooner the next game comes, the better it is."
On Friday, RSL signed striker Artur Aghasyan, the cousin of former RSL standout Yura Movsisyan, to help ease their lack of depth up top.
But even short-handed, Schmid believes unlocking RSL’s defense will be Seattle’s primary task. Salt Lake are 24-1-11 all-time in Rio Tinto Stadium and the powerful back line led by goalkeeper Nick Rimando and center halves Jámison Olave and Nat Borchers remains intact.
Even without the injured Javier Morales, the Kyle Beckerman-anchored midfield makes RSL tough to beat.
“Obviously, Morales is a big loss for them because he’s a unique player,” Schmid said, “but they’ve concentrated defensively on their team. That part of their team is intact, and that’s the part that they have only given up two goals this season. That’s going to be the challenge for us, so it doesn’t really matter if Saborío is missing. For us, the big challenge is we’ve got to break down their defense.”
Having Brad Evans back should help the Sounders offensively — the team is 3-1-2 when he plays a full 90 minutes. Even while dealing with injuries, Evans has contributed four goals and one assist in eight games. Schmid said that Evans will be a game-time decision, but that the midfielder suffered no setbacks in training and it is expected he’ll be in the 18.
The do-everything midfielder might provide a spark to a team that’s only scored two or more goals three times this season. Seattle, who are still adjusting to life without Steve Zakuani, have only Jeff Parke’s stoppage-time header to their credit in the past two matches.
“For us right now, we want to score more than one goal a game,” Schmid said on Tuesday, a day prior to their shutout loss to Dallas. “One goal a game is not enough for us.”
Andrew Winner covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewWinnerMLS