Seattle Sounders vs. Real Salt Lake | MLS Match Preview

Sept. 13, 2013 (WEEK 29, MLS Game #262)
7 p.m. PT (NBCSN; TSN2)

One of the marquee matches of the MLS season is ahead on Friday evening when Seattle Sounders FC play host to Real Salt Lake at CenturyLink Field before an NBC Sports Network audience. Holding the two best records in MLS, the teams are separated by just two points atop the Western Conference. Sounders FC have won four games in a row, coming off a 2-1 home win against Chicago, while RSL return to action after a second successive big victory, last defeating the Portland Timbers 4-2 in Utah.
REFEREE: Allen Chapman. AR1 (bench): Anthony Vasoli; AR2 (opposite): George Gansner; 4th: Alejandro Mariscal
Chapman's MLS Career: 30 games; FC/gm: 20.8; Y/gm: 3.1; R: 5; pens: 7
DISABLED LIST: SEA: Josh Ford, Steve Zakuani
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: SEA: Leo Gonzalez, Djimi Traore 
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: SEA: Zach Scott, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado Ö RSL: Kyle Beckerman, Ned Grabavoy, Olmes Garcia, Lovel Palmer, Yordany Alvarez, Chris Wingert, Javier Morales
ALL-TIME (11 meetings): Sounders FC 2 wins, 8 goals ... Real 5 wins, 11 goals ... Ties 4
AT SEATTLE (5 meetings): Sounders FC 1 win, 3 goals ... Real 2 wins, 3 goals ... Ties 2
2013 (MLS)
3/30: RSL 2, SEA 1 (Findley 8, Gil 35 -- Evans 57)
6/22: RSL 2, SEA 0 (Beckerman 41; Findley 46)
  • The teams are meeting for the third time this season, and Real have won both. First-half goals from Luis Gil and Robbie Findley sent RSL on their way to a 2-1 victory March 30 at Rio Tinto Stadium, and Kyle Beckerman and Findley scored on either side of halftime in a 2-0 RSL win June 22 in Sandy.
  • The first meeting this season ended a run of seven meetings in league and playoff competition which all ended in a shutout ñ both legs of playoff series in 2011 and 2012, and all three league meetings a season ago.
  • The teams met in the Western Conference Quarterfinals a season ago, Sounders FC advancing 1-0 on aggregate with the only scored by Mario MartÌnez in the second leg at CenturyLink Field.
  • Coaches record: Sigi Schmid vs. RSL: P17 W5 L7 D5 Ö Jason Kreis vs. SEA: P11 W5 L2 D4
  • Real took control of the match with goals on either side of halftime. In the 41st minute, Javier Morales sent in a bending free kick from the left that deflected off the Seattle wall and toward the far post. It fell to Kyle Beckerman, who hit a full volley that rocketed past goalkeeper Michael Gspurning and ricocheted off the bottom side of the crossbar and into the goal.
  • RSL doubled their lead less than a minute after the halftime break. ¡lvaro SaborÌoís errant rebound shot off a defender's deflection landed between Robbie Findleyís legs on the right side of goal, and he turned and put a shot inside the far post.
  • REAL SALT LAKE (4-3-1-2): Nick Rimando - Tony Beltran, Carlos Salcedo, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert - Ned Grabavoy, Kyle Beckerman, Khari Stephenson (Sebastian Velasquez 77) - Javier Morales (Yordany Alvarez 90) - Robbie Findley (Olmes Garcia 67), Alvaro Saborio.
  • SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC (4-4-2): Michael Gspurning - Zach Scott, Djimi Traore, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Leo Gonzalez - Mauro Rosales (Shalrie Joseph 76), Brad Evans, Servando Carrasco, Lamar Neagle (Mario Martinez 57) - Eddie Johnson (David Estrada 73), Obafemi Martins.
Seattle Sounders FC won their fourth game on the trot, getting a late own goal for a 2-1 victory against the Chicago Fire on Saturday evening at CenturyLink Field. Sounders FC are in second place in the Western Conference with 46 points from 26 matches.
  • The visitors took the in the 25th minute. Taking a pass from Dilly Duka, Mike Magee slotted home past Michael Gspurning, the first goal allowed by Seattle at CenturyLink Field since July 28.
  • Sounders FC then had a golden opportunity to tie the score just a few minutes later when Bakary Soumare was whistled for a hand ball in the penalty area off a Mauro Rosales corner kick. But Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson made the correct choice on Osvaldo Alonso's penalty attempt, diving to his right to make the save. 
  • Sounders FC then leveled terms in the 40th minute. Mauro Rosales floated in a cross that Johnson came off his line to clear. But he couldn't get it past Marc Burch, who then was able to find an open Lamar Neagle in front of the goal to slam home.
  • The winning goal then came in the 89th minute, Zach Scott came streaking in on the left side and sent in a centering ball that hit off Fire defender Gonzalo Segares and found the back of the net.
  • Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid made four changes to the team that took a 1-0 victory against Chivas USA at CenturyLink Field. Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Leo Gonzalez came into the back four for Patrick Ianni and Zach Scott, and Andy Rose and Obafemi Martins came into the team for Servando Carrasco and David Estrada.
  • SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC (4-4-2): Michael Gspurning - DeAndre Yedlin, Djimi Traore, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Leo Gonzalez - Mauro Rosales (David Estrada 80), Andy Rose, Osvaldo Alonso, Marc Burch (Zach Scott 82) - Lamar Neagle, Obafemi Martins (Servando Carrasco 90).
  • Sounders FC have won four games in a row, one shy of their MLS record club winning streak, set twice previously (including last April 14-May 9).
  • Sounders FC have also won their last five matches at CenturyLink Field, a new MLS club record, and have won seven of their last eight matches overall.
  • "It's no secret, winning gives you confidence," midfielder Servando Carrasco said. "We're on a tremendous momentum right now and things are going our way. We're playing well, we're creating chances. We've been scored on once in four games and when you have that stat, you're going to be in position to win games."
  • Lamar Neagle has scored in back-to-back matches, the second this season he's netted in consecutive games. He scored three goals over a two-match span, May 11-18, when Sounders FC scored eight goals combined in wins vs. San Jose and Dallas.
  • "He's certainly been a consistent goal-scorer for us when he's had the opportunities up front and you can't take that away from him," Schmid said. "He gives you a lot of hard work, a lot of effort, and sometimes, as with everyone, we want a little more at times. But he's there, he's around the box, he's looking to pounce on things that fall free."
  • Marc Burch has also recorded assists in the last two matches, making back-to-back starts after two games out of the starting lineup.
  • Obafemi Martins returned to the Sounders FC lineup after four matches out, playing 89 minutes after coming off with an ankle injury.
  • "I thought Oba was really energetic and bright in that first half. He got behind them ... you look at the first 10 minutes of the game and he was goal-dangerous 3-4 times. Obviously when he gets back into rhythm with training he'll feel a little more comfortable with some of those things," Schmid said. Said Martins: "I wasn't expecting to play 90 minutes at all because I wasn't playing that good. But I'm all good now. I have to start doing well and do everything that they say."
  • Andy Rose made his first league start since July 3, playing the full 90 minutes in the center of the park.
  • Sounders FC allowed their first goal in 311 minutes with the Fire's opening tally, the club's longest shutout streak this season and the fourth-longest in MLS. They had last conceded a goal in the 3-1 loss at Houston on Aug. 17.
  • "You're not going to shut everyone out down the line, but whatís really encouraging and has been nice is our ability to go down and come back," Schmid said. "Obviously it's a big stat that when we score first we continue on to win, but I think now in our last four games weíre 2-1-1 when we go down. It's good to be able to come back and win those games or tie those games up."
Real Salt Lake return to action after a week off following another impressive win, this time a 4-2 triumph against the Portland Timbers on Aug. 30 at Rio Tinto Stadium. RSL lead the Western Conference and MLS overall table with 48 points from 27 games.
  • Real were two goals ahead before the match was fully a quarter-hour old. In the ninth minute, a crisp passing sequence led to the opener, with Joao Plata one-timing a pass through the right side of the box to Luis Gil who clinically finished inside the far post. Six minutes later it was Plata who raced past a defender and hammered a left-footed shot past 'keeper Donovan Ricketts, off the far post, and into the net.
  • The Timbers pulled a goal in the 31st minute after Michael Harrington set off on a storming, 50-yard run up the field before laying off to Darlington Nagbe, who scorched a low shot from distance past Nick Rimando.
  • In first-half stoppage time, Timbers midfielder Ben Zemanski saw a straight red from referee Baldomero Toledo for a high challenge on Ned Grabavoy.
  • RSL took advantage with two goals by the three-quarter mark. It was piece of brillance from Morales in the 55th minute, twisting his body to hit a bicycle kick from a corner kick that flew back across the goal and bounced in off the post. Alvaro Saborio then flicked home a free kick from Morales to make the score 4-1.
  • Sal Zizzo provided the final scoreline when he knocked home a rebound in the area from a Rimando save.
  • RSL head coach Jason Kreis made two changes to the team that, cruised to a 4-0 victory against the Columbus Crew at Rio Tinto Stadium. Joao Plata and Alvaro Saborio were the strike pair, in place of Olmes Garcia and Devon Sandoval.
  • REAL SALT LAKE (4-3-1-2): Nick Rimando - Tony Beltran, Carlos Salcedo, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert - Luis Gil (Sebastian Velasquez 72), Kyle Beckerman, Ned Grabavoy - Javier Morales - Joao Plata (Robbie Findley 61), Alvaro Saborio.
  • Real Salt Lake have put together back-to-back wins in league matches for the first time since winning four in a row June 1-29, yet still lead the overall MLS table and the race for the Supportersí Shield by three points.
  • "In prior years, we've had really, really bad dips. This year, it was a small dip, and I think a factor in that is how many players we were missing at that time, as well," said RSL head coach Jason Kreis. "Now, weíre back at it. Weíre towards the end of the season and weíve got three trophies to win, so I think our guys are up for it."
  • Said midfielder Ned Grabavoy: "Obviously, we are at the top of the table now, but we were in some good positions there to put a little bit of space between ourselves and a few of the other teams. So it was good to finally do that because in some other situations we havenít cashed in on that opportunity."
  • RSL scored a season-high four goals in a league game for the second consecutive match, and the third time this season. RSL has scored multiple goals in 12 of the last 16 games.
  • "I think itís overall commitment from all of our players, to be really in the attacking mindset, to take some risks, and to be aggressive in the way that we approach the match," said Kreis. "With our forward situation, it's unbelievable. Unfortunately, we do have one [forward] injured now, so we're down to four that I really like ... hardly should we feel sorry for ourselves."
  • Javier Morales continues to lead Real in assists, with 10, and also has seven goals. He has two goals and two assists over the last three games.
  • "We're getting contributions from all the midfielders right now," said Grabavoy. "I think if you look at the four guys that started tonight, I think all have at least four goals. Between us we probably have close to 20 goals (actually. 21). That's a lot from your midfield group, especially with the defensive work your head coach asks you to do. ... I think it is just unselfish soccer and everybody is feeling good about it."
  • Alvaro SaborÌo scored his team-leading 10th goal of the season, his first since Aug. 10, and his first from open play since July 27. But there is an injury concern after he suffered a calf strain while on international duty with Costa Rica; he was coming off a two-match absence in the Portland match.
  • "It has been a little bit of an odd year for Sabo because he's had so many muscle injuries. We know that he has historically, he has had problems in his knee, but really his knee has gotten along very nicely this year. It is the muscles," Kreis said. "It is interesting, but in the minutes he has contributed he has been pretty dynamic. He's been pretty spot-on. We are pleased with what we can get and we'll just try to get him out there as quickly as pssible."
  • Joao Plata scored a goal and added two assists, the best single-game performance of his MLS career. He has tied his single-season career-best with three goals; his eight assists are a career MLS single-season high.
  • "It seems like a lot of players want to be involved in attacks," said Grabavoy. "I think you've seen that the last two games where we just kind of play simple soccer until that final pass, and I think we are just on right now. We are finishing chances."
  • Said Morales: "I think itís about confidence. When you score a goal you feel more confident. I think, I donít know, everyone has scored a goal. This year Grabavoy, Plata, Garcia, Saborio, everyone. So that is good for the team, good for confidence. So when we have a chance, we score a goal and that is pretty dangerous for other teams."

Stay connected: The official MLS app keeps you connected with the latest news, highlights, scores, standings, and analysis all for FREE. Download for iOS (Apple) or Download for Android