Wed, Oct 17
10:00 PM ET
Real Salt LakeRSL

Preview: Playoff positioning at stake as Seattle host RSL

October 17, 2012 (WEEK 32, MLS Game #304)
7 p.m. PT (NBC SN; KONG; KUCW-30)
A massive clash in the Western Conference is the lone midweek game before an NBC Sports Network audience as Seattle Sounders FC play host to Real Salt Lake at CenturyLink Field. The teams are separated by just three points in the West for what could be a playoff preview – the teams also played in the Western Conference Semifinal Series a year ago, with RSL advancing. Real come into the game riding a three-game league winning streak after their 2-1 win at the LA Galaxy, while Sounders FC snapped a three-game winless skid with a 3-0 home win against Portland.
REFEREE: Ricardo Salazar. AR1 (bench): Corey Rockwell; AR2 (opposite): Jeff Hosking; 4th: Tyler Ploeger
MLS Career: 159 games; FC/gm: 26.9; Y/gm: 3.5; R: 45; pens: 57
SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC – OUT: FW Babayele Sodade (R knee ACL tear); DF Andrew Duran (L ACL surgery); DOUBTFUL: DF Leo Gonzalez (R hamstring strain); DF Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (facial fracture)
REAL SALT LAKE – OUT: GK Lalo Fernandez (R wrist fracture); DOUBTFUL: DF Kwame Watson-Siriboe (R leg strain); QUESTIONABLE: MF Ned Grabavoy (R quad strain); PROBABLE: DF Chris Wingert (turf toe); DF Tony Beltran (R knee soreness)
SEA: Adam Johansson (Sweden); Eddie Johnson (USA); Mario Martinez (Honduras)
RSL: Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando (both USA); Álvaro Saborío (Costa Rica); Will Johnson (Canada); Luis Gil (U.S. U-20)
SEA: Osvaldo Alonso, Fredy Montero
RSL: Javier Morales, Alvaro Saborio
SEA: Andy Rose, Zach Scott, Marc Burch, Servando Carrasco, Leo Gonzalez, Jeff Parke
RSL: Tony Beltran, Fabian Espindola, Will Johnson, Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Jonny Steele, Chris Wingert
ALL-TIME (8 meetings): Sounders FC 2 wins, 7 goals … Real 3 wins, 7 goals … Ties 3
AT SEATTLE (4 meetings): Sounders FC 1 win, 3 goals … Real 2 wins, 3 goals … Ties 1
2012 (MLS)
5/12: SEA 0. RSL 1 (Espindola 50)
7/4: RSL 0, SEA 0
  • The teams are meeting for the third time this season. Fabian Espíndola netted the game’s lone goal for an RSL win May 12 at CenturyLink Field, then the teams played to a scoreless draw July 4 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
  • The clubs met last year in a tense Western Conference Semifinal Series, Real winning the first leg 3-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium, then advancing on aggregate despite a 2-0 loss at CenturyLink Field in the return match.
  • Coaches' records: Sigi Schmid vs. RSL: P8 W2 L3 D3 … Jason Kreis vs. SEA: P8 W3 L2 D3
  • Sounders FC goalkeeper Bryan Meredith was credited with two saves on the evening and was beaten in the 52nd minute as striker Álvaro Saborío hit the back of the net following a ball to the middle, but the goal was ruled out for offside.
  • Real goalkeeper Nick Rimando was called upon to make one save for the match.
  • REAL SALT LAKE (4-3-1-2): Nick Rimando - Kenny Mansally (Jonny Steele 79), Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert - Will Johnson, Kyle Beckerman, Luis Gil (Ned Grabavoy 62) - Javier Morales - Fabian Espindola, Alvaro Saborio.
  • SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC (4-4-2): Bryan Meredith - Zach Scott, Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Leo Gonzalez - Mauro Rosales, Brad Evans (Andy Rose 64), Servando Carrasco, Alvaro Fernandez (Marc Burch 85) - Fredy Montero (Cordell Cato 73), Eddie Johnson.
Seattle Sounders FC put an end to their three-game winless streak in emphatic fashion, rolling to a 3-0 victory against the Portland Timbers on Oct. 7 at CenturyLink Field. Sounders FC are in third place in the Western Conference with 52 points from 31 games.
  • Seattle took the lead in the 25th minute. Osvaldo Alonso put in a beautiful through ball that Christian Tiffert dummied, allowing it to roll to Adam Johansson, who then crossed it toward a streaking Fredy Montero, but Mamadou Danso first deflected past goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts for an own goal.
  • Sounders FC extended the lead to 2-0 when Brad Evans found Eddie Johnson wide open at the top of the penalty area, and left completely unmarked he easily put it past Ricketts for his 14th goal of the season.
  • Seattle made the score 3-0 in the 62nd minute, when Montero poked his own rebound back in after a scramble in the box, beating Jack Jewsbury to it as the Timbers captain tried to clear it and putting it in for his 13th goal of the season.
  • Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid made no changes to the team that reached a scoreless draw with Vancouver Whitecaps FC at BC Place.
  • SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC (4-4-2): Michael Gspurning - Adam Johansson, Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Leo Gonzalez (Marc Burch 77) - Mauro Rosales (Andy Rose 87), Christian Tiffert (David Estrada 88), Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans - Fredy Montero, Eddie Johnson.
  • The game drew a crowd of 66,492, the seventh-largest crowd for a regular season game in Major League Soccer history, and the second-largest for a standalone game (not part of an international doubleheader).
  • “This is just absolutely phenomenal. It's a reflection of the community, it's a reflection of the sports interest for the city of Seattle – just what the people are all about here. Our fans are the best,” said Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid. “No offense to the Portland fans, I think they're great and they support their team to the hilt, but there's nothing better than the Seattle Sounders fans."
  • For just the second time this season, Schmid ran out the same team in back-to-back matches (also doing in July 28-Aug.5).
  • “It's important to keep evolving and to keep evolving as a group. I think we played this lineup, as well, against Chivas down there. The more time they get together the better it is,” said Schmid. “Certainly with Leo dropping out we can bring in a Burch. There's Steve Zakuani that can still step in and play. Mario Martinez, when he's still around, can step in and play. David Estrada is coming back, Sammy Ochoa has played well. We still have options that we can bring, but it's good right now to get ourselves into a rhythm and for that group to get some understanding because they really haven't had a lot of time together.”
  • Eddie Johnson scored his 14th goal in the win against Portland – nearly matching his total of 15 goals scored in his last season in the league, 2007 when he played for the Kansas City Wizards.
  • Fredy Montero scored his MLS single-season career-high 13th goal. Montero, who has scored in double digits in goals in each of his four MLS seasons, has 47 goals since coming to the league.
  • “The movement from Fredy and Eddie was phenomenal, so credit to them. It makes it easier when they are moving and playing with each other,” said midfielder Brad Evans. “We talked about it before the game, if they are physical then they will win the headers and the physical duels. That makes it a lot easier for the midfielders to make plays. From that standpoint, we played to our game plan and we executed. We were fortunate to get three goals.”
  • There could be a change in the strike pair at midweek as Eddie Johnson will be with the U.S. national team for its match vs. Guatemala in Kansas City on Tuesday. Johnson scored both goals for the USA in their 2-1 win vs. Antigua & Barbuda over the weekend.
  • After suffering a clash of heads with Timbers striker Bright Dike, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado received a facial fracture – while he was able to finish the Portland match, he is listed as doubtful on the club’s injury report for the midweek game.
  • “He doesn’t need surgery or anything for it, so now it’s a matter of being careful the first few days because there’s blood buildup and you don’t want to mess up the sinuses or anything,” Schmid said. “But then there’s a question of, can he play? Is there some kind of mask that can possibly be done to help him get out there and play with a mask? So those are things we’re exploring and those are things that we’re looking into.”
  • There’s another injury concern as Leo Gonzalez suffered a hamstring strain that has also left him doubtful for this weekend.
  • The win also put Sounders FC in position to win the Cascadia Cup, the fan-organized competition between the three Pacific Northwest clubs. If Vancouver defeats Portland this weekend, Seattle will claim the trophy.
  • “We put ourselves in the best position possible. We're in a position now where they have to go to Vancouver and win,” Schmid said. “Anything short of a victory gives the Cascadia Cup back to us, and in a year where we had four of the six games on the road and they had four of the six games at home, I think that's a big tribute to our team.”
Real Salt Lake extended their winning run to three games in impressive style, coming back for a 2-1 win against the LA Galaxy on Oct. 6 at The Home Depot Center. Real are in second place in the Western Conference with 55 points from 32 games.
  • The Galaxy took the lead in the 15th minute. Juninho was given space to operate from a Sean Franklin throw-in on the right flank and arced a cross to the left side of the RSL box, where Robbie Keane measured it, and crushed a low, left-footed volley through the goalmouth and inside the right post.
  • Yet Real were level barely eight minutes later. Alvaro Saborío played Javier Morales clear after Fabian Espíndola dummied a pass to the semicircle, Espíndola then stroking home a low blast from the left side of the box.
  • RSL made it 2-1 less than three minutes later. Espíndola slipped into space above defenders Omar Gonzalez and Sean Franklin to powerfully head home Morales' cross from the right wing.
  • RSL head coach Jason Kreis made two changes to the team that strolled to a 4-0 victory against Chivas USA on Saturday evening at The Home Depot Center. Jamison Olave came into the back four for Chris Schuler, and Jonny Steele replaced Will Johnson in midfield.
  • REAL SALT LAKE (4-1-3-2): Nick Rimando - Tony Beltran (Chris Schuler 84), Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert - Luis Gil, Kyle Beckerman, Jonny Steele (Yordany Alvarez 77) - Javier Morales (Paulo Junior 90) - Fabian Espindola, Alvaro Saborio.
  • It was a third consecutive victory for Real, matching their season-long winning streak (also: March 31-April 7 and May 12-June 16).
  • “It's huge. LA is right behind us in the playoff race. We need to finish second or third place so we can avoid that wild card spot,” said defender Tony Beltran. “It's a big statement, but mostly it’s good for ourselves. We want to keep this going. We've said that as far as we are considered the playoffs started weeks ago. We want to keep getting results week in and week out and get through October and November.”
  • It was the third win for Real this season after allowing the first goal – but their first since May 5. Still, it was the second time they’d conceded first against the LA Galaxy at The Home Depot Center and come back to win.
  • “I was really interested to see what our response would be. A lot of teams, even ourselves, in some patches of the season, and in prior years, would fold up shop and just succumb to more and more goals and more and more pressure,” said RSL head coach Jason Kreis. “I think our guys handled it in the exact right way. They stayed calm and realized that we would still get chances. And, what a fantastic play by the players involved on that first goal. I think it really changed the flow of the game.”
  • “The good thing is we came back from a 1-0 hole. [Teams that do that are] the kind of teams that can win the championship – when you’re losing and you can come back you’re actually showing that you can go far in this league,” said Fabian Espíndola.
  • Espíndola continued his hot streak, getting both goals in the Galaxy win. In the last three games – all RSL wins – Espíndola has three goals and three assists.
  • “He's been there for us. He wants to prove to his teammates and his team that he's here and he wants to play. He wants to prove to the league that he's one of the best forwards in this league. He's been putting forward that effort for a while now, but it’s really starting to show,” said goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
  • It was the second 2-goal game this season for Espíndola – the other also coming at The Home Depot Center, June 16 in a 3-0 win vs. Chivas. In four games this year in Carson, Espíndola has scored 5 goals and added 3 assists. It was the fourth multiple-goal game of his RSL career.
  • “I like to play against LA. This is a huge field, it’s so difficult for defenders to mark and I think that’s good for us. We’re a team that’s good with the ball so it works because the other teams get so tired when they don’t get the ball in those spaces,” said Espíndola.
  • Added Kreis: “I guess he likes this stadium. He was spectacular tonight. Obviously, the two goals were quite nice and special. He was good for us defensively and trying to find spots to help out the rest of his team on the other side of the ball. It was critical.”
  • Alvaro Saborio assisted on Espindola’s first goal; the strike partners have combined for five goals and four assists in RSL’s last two games.
  • Javier Morales also continued his return to form, collecting an assist for a third consecutive match. His nine assists are tied for his second-most in a single season in his six years in MLS; he had 15 in 2008.
  • “The key was to be patient,” said Morales. “We knew that maybe they'd score early at home, so we had to be ready — play our game. It is a 90-minute game so we had to be patient and believe in ourselves. I believe the last couple games we have been improving every game, and today, I think we played one of the better games of the year.”
  • Canadian international midfielder Will Johnson missed the victory due to the recent birth of his newborn daughter, Arabella Capri, who arrived the Wednesday evening before the match.
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