TUKWILA, Wash. — If something can be done once, it can be done twice. Seattle’s streak-busting victory over Real Salt Lake has given the Sounders confidence coming into the first leg of their playoff encounter at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The Claret-and-Cobalt hadn’t lost at home in 29 games when Seattle claimed a 2-1 victory on May 28, 2011. With that victory in their back pocket, the Sounders are confident heading into Saturday night’s clash in Utah (10 pm ET, ESPN2/ESPN Deportes).
“Obviously it’s a very tough place to play,” said Mike Fucito, who started and drew a red card against Jámison Olave in that match. “They have a good fan base and a good team so it’s going to be a battle. It gives us a little confidence knowing that we’ve gone in there and done well before. I think we can go in there and do well again.”
Without Fredy Montero and Mauro Rosales out of the starting lineup, not many people fancied Seattle’s chances against Real Salt Lake, even less so when Álvaro Fernández couldn’t battle through a hamstring strain suffered in pregame warmups.
Lamar Neagle, who played the first substantial minutes of his MLS career in relief of Fernández, scored the eventual game-winning goal in that match. With Neagle likely to start this weekend in place of the injured Rosales, he said the team’s confidence level has grown, especially on the offensive end of the field.
“I think we’re definitely going to be confident,” Neagle said. “We know we can score goals. If we get a shutout then we really feel that we’re going to win the game.”
Sigi Schmid pointed to the victory as one of the turning points of Seattle’s season, saying Monday that “showed us that we could win.” At that time, Real Salt Lake were fresh off an appearance in the CONCACAF Champions League final and had one of the most-feared back lines in the league.
While recent results haven’t gone RSL’s way, Fucito still believes they present a stout challenge. The forward offered some insight into Seattle’s strategy for breaking down RSL’s vaunted midfield diamond.
“We’ve seen them a few times this season,” Fucito said. “We always battle against them, against their style of play.”
“They play more pinched in and like to move the ball around,” Fucito added. “Defensively, the last game against Chivas helped. We have to cut the field in half and try to keep them from switching the ball.”
“Offensively, they have a big back line. We need to be sure to do a good job holding up the ball but also using our strengths. Quickness, getting into those spots, getting those guys on the turn—that’s where maybe we draw a PK or get in behind them.”
Andrew Winner covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com.