Real Salt Lake-Sounders Preview
Decision Day couldn’t be any simpler for the Seattle Sounders; beat Real Salt Lake and clinch a playoff spot. Failing to do so could mean missing out for the first time.
The Sounders try to snap their string of three straight ties by beating RSL for the fourth straight time at CenturyLink Field on Sunday night.
Seattle (14-13-6) won the Supporters’ Shield for the first time last year, reaching the playoffs for the sixth straight time since joining MLS.
That run is under some threat, but the Sounders can extend it with a win over eliminated Salt Lake (11-14-8). They could finish as high as second in the Western Conference – earning a bye to the conference semifinals – or fail to qualify for the postseason with a loss or tie combined with the appropriate results by San Jose and Kansas City.
"We know if we win the game, we’ll be somewhere between second and fifth (in the conference)," coach Sigi Schmid told the league’s official website. "There are things that are outside our control. But what’s inside our control is our ability to go out there and play well and win the game."
Seattle is unbeaten in seven games but four ended in draws. Obafemi Martins’ goal in the 82nd minute salvaged a 1-all tie at Houston last Sunday, two weeks after Chad Barrett scored in stoppage time to conclude a 1-1 deadlock against Los Angeles.
"We’ve come back from behind a couple times this year, so there’s fire and desperation to come back," midfielder Brad Evans said. "If we didn’t tie these lasts two games, we’d be out of the playoffs, so I think that shows a bit of character there."
The Sounders could use some production from star forward Clint Dempsey, who hasn’t scored in his last five league games and has only one goal in his past 12. He’s come up empty in his last four meetings with RSL, totaling 10 shots – three on goal – in the last two.
A hamstring injury forced Dempsey to miss Seattle’s 2-0 loss at Salt Lake on Aug. 22. However, the Sounders are 3-0-2 in their last five home matchups, winning three straight following a 3-2 victory on Sept. 12, 2014.
Martins has scored in each of the last three meetings with RSL.
Real is looking to play the role of spoiler after its run of seven straight playoff appearances ended with last weekend’s 1-0 loss to Dallas. However, RSL has been shut out in back-to-back games, giving it a league-high 14 on the season.
Salt Lake’s 37 goals are more than only Colorado’s 32 in MLS and the club’s lowest output since scoring 31 in 2007 – the last time it failed to reach the playoffs.
"I don’t want to put that on our attack whatsoever because I think that our attack is quality," defender Tony Beltran said. "I think we have outstanding players in the attacking half. That doesn’t fall just on their shoulders it falls on everyone. Maybe it’s not one thing maybe it’s a combination of luck and bad timing and this and whatever."
RSL will be without midfielder Kyle Beckerman, who is suspended due an accumulation of yellow cards.