LEHI, Utah — Chris Wingert has a problem.
The Real Salt Lake veteran left back has a pile of homework to do, studying that could potentially keep him up all hours and lead to a couple of sleepless nights.
He hasn’t re-enrolled in school, and he’s not teaching night classes. Wingert’s simply focused on trying to figure out the task at hand: which Sounders midfielder is going to line up against him on Saturday (10 pm ET; Fox Soccer, TSN2), and how to best stifle whoever it happens to be.
“I definitely started going over some video already,” Wingert said after Thursday’s practice session. “They’re a good team no matter who they have in there, but they’ve got three or four different guys who can give you three or four different looks, which makes it tough.”
The confusion stems from the fact that nobody knows Mauro Rosales’ injury status. The Argentine playmaker has been one of the defining players of the season – not just for Seattle, but for the league as a whole – and is a lock to start if he’s recovered from an MCL strain. But it’s a big if.
Seattle’s other options for the spot don’t create a similar butterfly effect. But Wingert has to prepare for them as well.
That means he might be facing Lamar Neagle, the 24-year old winger who’s contributed five goals on the season for Seattle. Neagle readily admits he’s still learning to read the game at the MLS level, but he’s deadly if the game takes on a north-south orientation.
Or, it might be Uruguayan attacker Álvaro Fernández. “Flaco” lacks the raw power and pace of Neagle, but other than Chris Wondolowski, nobody is better at getting to the back post to pick up the second ball.
It could even be Swede Erik Friberg, or utility-man Roger Levesque who lines up against the RSL veteran.
“You see? This is why we have to start with these videos early,” Wingert said.
For his part, RSL manager Jason Kreis wouldn’t take the bait when asked about the complications of matching up with Seattle in general, or Rosales in particular.
“Who’s that?” Kreis quipped on Thursday.
When prodded, he was more forthcoming — but just barely.
“We’ll prepare for the two or three options Seattle has if Rosales doesn’t play,” Kreis said. “But it’s one player. I think we’ve gotta prepare for Seattle, because they’ve got a whole lot more than one player that’s dangerous.”
True enough. Fredy Montero’s on a tear, Sammy Ochoa has looked very useful in his short stints, and Osvaldo Alonso is an MVP candidate from his defensive midfield role.
But for the most part, the Sounders start their goal sequences on the flanks. And whoever’s out there will command the attention of the RSL fullbacks.
“They provide some different qualities, but are all very, very good players, so I’m just gonna do my best to prepare for each guy,” Wingert said. “And then when it comes to the game, you’ve just gotta play and trust in your preparation.”