The Seattle Sounders play Real Salt Lake today. Seattle needs points in the West if they want to slowly sidle away from the razor’s edge of a postseasonlessness. RSL just hopes to be relevant again.
Salt Lake is finally getting the band back together. After yet another successful campaign in 2014, hard times have hit RSL… well… hard. This weekend, for the first time in a long time, Salt Lake almost has an ideal eleven. Chris Schuler is cleared to play, but isn’t expected to contribute heavily. Like Seattle, RSL has battled through injuries and absences all season. Like Seattle, they’ve fortified their core players with midseason signings, and like Seattle they have a playoffs streak to defend. Unlike Seattle, RSL’s run is probably done.
RSL has the longest active playoffs streak in MLS at 7 years, beginning in 2008. L.A. and Seattle are tied at second with 6. Coincidentally Garth Lagerwey was signed as RSL’s GM in 2008 when RSL became RSL. It was a proud era on the Wasatch front as trophies were won and CCL glory tilted for. But all good things must come to an end. The Jeff Cassar-led squad has abandoned the diamond formation and some old stalwarts, as the expanding wealth and resources of the league are starting to pinch a classically small market, moneyball team.
Bold Prediction: RSL will field a top-choice lineup, but expect Sigi to use a similar lineup to the one he employed with great effect against Orlando City.
Trouble is, that lineup was still far from star-studded. Pappa is finally training with the team again and Clint Dempsey and Ozzie are still injured (Klinsmann!). New signing Ivanschitz is working through a thigh issue, still. Which is curious because upon signing him, Lagerwey said Ivanschitz would be the first new Sounder we’d probably see (as Valdez was supposed to be rusty and Torres exhausted). Both should play today and still no sign of Ivanschitz.
We’ll still have a dangerous lineup. The backline is now stacked and the strike force of Oba and H. Valdez has instant chemistry. It’s the midfield that is still gelling, though Friberg working with Angry Brad in the middle has been a revelation. The wide mids today will be some collection of Neagle, Rose, Roldan, or Thomas. Not great, but serviceable when they don’t need to be relied upon for offensive flow or goals.
RSL can defend. They still have Rimando and are no longer playing with 5th-string CBs. It won’t be enough. In a sad end to the RSL era, Sigi’s boys outmuscle Cassar’s: 2-0 Sounders.