Otto Greule Jr
If you feel like you just read three questions between these teams, you have. But there is a tiny bit of new stuff and we exchange questions about that as well.
If you are getting tired of Real Salt Lake I can't blame you. The teams played seven times in the last 18 months. Not much has changed from the RSL side that won the MLS Cup here in Seattle in 2009. They play a narrow diamond and have two of the best in MLS at the CDM and CAM. Their forward tandem is quite like Seattle's. There are some injury concerns for Salt Lake though.
With a quick preview of leg one we chat with Matt from RSLSoapBox.
SaH: Borchers, Olave and Schuler all carried injuries into the final match of the season. What are the chances that all are available? What happens if none are?
RSLSB: Chris Schuler is likely to remain out, but Jamison Olave is working his way back from injury and should be in contention for a start, and Nat Borchers is likely to play, as his absence was largely precautionary.
SaH: What is the biggest change for Real Salt Lake from last year's Playoff squad and this year's?
RSLSB: The only two big departures from the 2011 squad are Robbie Russell and Andy Williams, both of whom played substantial roles in the two-legged conference semi-final against Seattle. Aside from that, the starting group is essentially the same.
SaH: How effective is RSL's set-piece defense and offense in 2012?
RSLSB: Set piece offense has been notably lacking for Real Salt Lake, who were once known for their prowess from free kicks and corners. Javier Morales is still dangerous from range, though, and there's always a sense that RSL could score from a corner with Olave and Borchers providing an aerial threat.
* * *
RSLSB: If Eddie Johnson's not in the side, how will Seattle cope in attack?
SaH: If Zakuani or Estrada start up top it will be their speed that is used to provide space for Montero to work. Zakauni will work wider if he's the forward, while Estrada will harry the RSL defense when they have possession. Sigi could go with Sammy Ochoa to provide a back to goal type player to pop a ball into and he'd bounce it ou to running mids or Montero. No matter what it changes how Seattle plays up top as only Eddie has the combination of all their skills.
RSLSB: Real Salt Lake has tended to do better in home-first playoff series. How important for Seattle is playing the home game first? Does it make a difference?
SaH: The Sounders have hosted first legs and lost, hosted second legs and lost. For the sake of momentum they seem to want this first match. It gives them the opportunity to build on last year's strong leg two. But the two leg aggregate really damages home field advantage, so it won't matter much.
RSLSB: What's been holding Seattle back in the playoffs? Is it something palpable, or is it a bit harder to explain?
SaH: Last year was the only year they were favored and it wasn't by much. In 2010 LA was clearly the better team and played like it. I don't think it's a case of being held back, juding a team which has played nearly 200 competitive matches by only six games seems silly.
RSLSB: Given the drama between these two sides, if there's any more, will the universe actually implode?
SaH: A dozen matches in four years with two more to come. We both know exactly how each team plays tactically. Each side can claim to be the second best team over the past four years. Guess what? This playoff series won't settle that argument either.