Sounders-Real Salt Lake Preview
Real Salt Lake and the Seattle Sounders have played some games of serious significance over the past few seasons.
There's not as much at stake Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium - except for perhaps the title of the league's hottest team.
RSL looks for a third straight win and a fifth consecutive game with at least a point when they face the Sounders, who seem to have found an offensive spark as they go for a sixth victory in seven league contests.
Salt Lake (8-3-5) and the Sounders have engaged in some memorable contests in the five years both have been in the league - including dramatic conference semifinal playoffs series in 2011 and 2012 - and none of the last six meetings has been decided by more than one goal.
Though the teams traded playoff advancements - Seattle moved on last season - RSL is unbeaten (3-0-2) in the last five regular-season meetings following a 2-1 home win March 30.
Robbie Findley and Luis Gil scored first-half goals in that victory before Brad Evans got one back for Seattle in the second half. RSL outshot the Sounders 25-8.
"They're a team that believes in what they're doing and their attacking abilities," Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said.
Salt Lake is on quite the scoring surge heading into this match. Since totaling seven goals over its first nine matches, Real Salt Lake has scored 25 during its last nine overall, including eight tallies in a pair of U.S. Open Cup victories.
Devon Sandoval, Khari Stephenson and Ned Grabavoy have paced RSL with three goals apiece over the last four league contests.
Olmes Garcia tied for the team lead with four goals in league play after scoring twice in the final 10 minutes in a 3-1 victory over Los Angeles on June 8. Javier Morales assisted on both, giving him a goal and three assists in his last two league games.
"He's showing he's at the top of his fitness level and at the top of his game,'' coach Jason Kreis said of Morales. "Those things go hand in hand.''
The Sounders (6-4-3) have also been successful on the attack lately, scoring 13 times over their last five MLS matches after scoring six goals in their first eight. Like RSL, they're 5-1-1 in their last seven league games, moving into sixth place in the Western Conference after being in the basement following a 1-3-3 start.
Seattle is expected to add more weapons in this match with Eddie Johnson, Brad Evans and Mario Martinez back from international duty.
Johnson has four goals in eight matches this season.
"We think all three will be ready to go," Schmid said. "It's just a matter of how we intend to use them."
Sounders midfielder Lamar Neagle has stepped up with four goals and three assists over the last five MLS games, while Obafemi Martins has a goal in his last three.
Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando, Alvaro Saborio and Abdoulie Mansally are also expected to return from international play for Real Salt Lake.