Thursday, November 1, 2012

Sounders ready to do battle with RSL in the Playoffs again

By Money Mike

The MLS regular season is over so now it's time to turn our attention to where it really counts, the MLS Cup playoffs. The Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake faced off against eachother in last years MLS Cup quarterfinal. RSL won the first leg 3-0 and Seattle won the second leg 2-0. Unfortunately, that second leg win wasn't enough to keep their MLS Cup title hopes alive as Salt Lake advanced 3-2 on aggregate. Tomorrow, it will be a rematch between the Sounders and RSL. The first leg kicks off at 7pm and will be aired regionally on ROOT Sports, locally on KONG-TV and nationally on the NBC Sports Network. The Sounders are well overdue to advance in the playoffs and perhaps this could be the year for that to happen. Since their nine game winless run in the middle of the season, the Sounders have gone 8-3-5 the rest of the way leading up to the playoffs.

Injury report:

Real Salt Lake - Salt Lake has three defenders currently on the injured list.  Chris Schuler and Nat Borchers are dealing with quad strains and Jamison Olave is dealing with a strained left hamstring.  Borchers and Olave are listed as probable and Schuler is listed as questionable.  Another player that's dealing with a quad strain is midfielder Ned Grabavoy.  He might be good to go, but I haven't heard anything yet.  Right now he's listed as probable.  Lastly, Paulo Junior has a contusion in his right foot and is also listed as probable.

Seattle Sounders FC - For the Rave Green, of course rookies Andrew Duran and Babayele Sodade are out.  Leonardo Gonzalez has a strained right hamstring and Patrick Ianni has a right calf strain.  Both have been working their way back, but they have been ruled out for tomorrow's match.  Lastly, this is what's been concerning the entire Sounder nation all week.  Eddie Johnson left late in the first half of sunday's 1-0 loss to the LA Galaxy.  The MRI showed that he suffered a left adductor strain.  He hasn't been ruled out of tomorrow night's match, at least not yet, but there's a chance he will not play in the first leg.  Right now, EJ is listed as questionable.

Who will start if Johnson isn't available?

We've had to deal with the same situation last season with Mauro Rosales.  At least we won't have to worry about him this time.  Again, there is a pretty good chance that Eddie Johnson will not play tomorrow.  If that is the case, head coach Sigi Schmid has plenty of options on the bench with David Estrada, Sammy Ochoa, Steve Zakuani and Mario Martinez.  Estrada and Zakuani are both working to get back to full fitness, Ochoa has struggled to find that breakout moment and Martinez has had trouble settling in because of international duty.  There's a pool on Seattle Times that is also asking who should start and the results are pretty even.

In my opinion, I'd go with creativity here, so I think Mauro Rosales should push up front and Mario Martinez should get the start on the right hand side.  He's been in big matches like these before (but then again, everybody has), he handles the pressure very well, he looked pretty good in the Champions League and we saw what he did for Honduras in their World Cup Qualifying match against Canada.  So I think this match will be an opportunity for him to prove, not that he's happy to be here, but that he want's to be here and that he belongs here.  Of course that's who I think should start, but my guess is that Ochoa will probably the one that will get the nod up front with Fredy Montero.

Right now, anything but a win in the first leg for the Sounders will not work at all.  The lads are at home in the opening match of the playoffs, so here's there opportunity to come right at Real Salt Lake and put them under a ton of pressure.  If the Sounders can win by at least two goals, given the fact that RSL has struggled to score, I think this will put Salt Lake in a heap of trouble.  They have the home field in the first leg, so they have to make the most of it if they want any chance of advancing in the playoffs.

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