If you think RSL fans have been upset over their slow start to the season, you should see how the fans of defending MLS Cup champs Seattle are reacting. I mean hell it is as if they invented early season disappointment, oh wait that was last year before they made their big summer move and went on to win it all. If you only looked at the numbers you would think Seattle probably was off to a better start than RSL. I mean Seattle have scored 15 goals in 11 matches to RSL’s 11 in 12. They give up fewer goals just 19 allowed in 11 matches to 23 in 12 matches by RSL. Yet with just 10 points in 11 matches it is Seattle just below RSL in the table but honestly their 0.91 points per match and RSL’s 0.92 are both pathetic for teams that historically have been some of the best in the West over the last 8 seasons.
So what will happen when “lovable losers” meet off against “under-performing megastars”? Yeah that is a bit harsh but 9 vs 10 is rarely a highlight match in most leagues but the reality is this one could be exciting for a number of reasons.
Keys to the Match:
Scoring – Yup, I will keep beating this drum as long as needed the reality is that when you score an average of less than 1 goals per match and your average of allowing almost 2 goals per match you simply must score more. Now if you watched the midweek match (any chance it will snow in Seattle today, we play better when it snows) you know RSL is giving up a lot of early goals off defensive mistakes. RSL has allowed 6 goals in the first 15 minutes of matches so far this year and historically in MLS is you give up the first goal you most often lose. RSL is 2-5-0 in matches where they allow the first goal, Seattle is 2-0-1 when scoring first. So the biggest key to the match, score. Score first, score often but just score.
Reduce Mistakes – On Wednesday we saw an early mistake that set RSL behind against NYCFC, against Seattle a team that has just 5 goals in the first half all season gifting them an early goal would be a critical mistake. RSL has been punished by teams for easy turnovers in the midfield or defensive third all season. While the Sounders have struggled like RSL, there is enough quality on their roster to make you pay for any mistakes you may make. Dempsey, Lodeiro, and Morris all have scored against RSL in the past, then toss in Will Bruin who has revived his career a bit with the move to Seattle (3 goals in 430 minutes) and you see why mistakes will likely be punished again.
Play 90 minutes – Between giving up early goals (10 in first 30 minutes of matches) or having to chase late to get results, RSL has yet to put in a really solid 90 minute performance. A slow start could be costly for RSL as Seattle have scored almost half (7) of their 15 goals this season in the final 15 minutes of matches. I get the roster isn’t fully healthy, I get the guys gone on call-ups, still a 90 minute consistent effort shouldn’t be too much to ask from professional players.
Players to Watch:
Joao Plata – This seems like a familiar choice for me recently but perhaps no time in his career at RSL has the pressure been more on Joao. A big off season contract, younger players nipping at his heels for minutes, rumors of foreign clubs being interested in him. Yeah there are a lot of reason for Joao to deliver a goal or two against Seattle, the turf may cause a lot of players issues but Joao has found the most success of any RSL player against the Sounders. His 3 goals and 4 assists in 635 minutes of play are huge numbers so perhaps he gets his first goal of 2017 against the Sounders.
Clint Dempsey – If MLS owes any single player a debt of gratitude it has to be Clint, really the first guy to leave MLS to play in the EPL with great results and then to come back at the peak of his career to help the league continue growing. Last year the heart issues had everyone wondering if Clint was done playing, well between his 4 goals and 1 assist for the Sounders so far this season and his recent USMNT form, stop wondering. Last year without Clint, the Sounders climbed on the back of Nicolas Lodeiro, but Clint is back and no matter what you think about him, he is the heart of this Sounders team.
3 matches in 8 days, a couple of guys we may not want to risk injury to, lineups are hard.
Dunk – Maund – Schmidt – Wingert
Mulholland – Silva – Beckerman
Savarino – Movsisyan – Plata
The home side has won each of the last 11 matches in this series, so one would expect the same. Both sides played midweek matches, RSL pulled out a 2-1 win at home against NYCFC, while the Sounders got thrashed by Sporting KC 3-0. Both sides are looking to get their fully loaded offensive rosters going in the scoring category, something neither side has done with any consistency this year. It is hard to imagine two teams wanting a win more desperately in MLS than these two going head to head on Saturday but I think both will walk away disappointed after a 2-2 draw.
That’s How I See It!