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Keys to Game: Sounders at Rapids

In a match-up of two under-performing sides this Saturday evening which side will start their claim to legit run, or will both just settle in mediocrity until the Summer Window closes? The Colorado Rapids have had a great homefield advantage through their history, all due to their playing at higher elevation and not due to having a great atmosphere. The Colorado side has two "off form" players in Casey and Cummings, while Seattle deals with a slew of injuries with 3 starters and 2 rotationals who are out with injury.

We could set this up as what does Seattle need to do to grab a draw on the road in a tough environment, but I don't think the team will be satisfied with a single point, nor should they be. This is a match against direct competition for the final playoff spot, and the first tie-breaker is head to head record. A win pushes Seattle up the chart quite a bit.

Keys to the Game

Set Plays - Sure, we're going to beat this horse. It deserves to be beaten. It continues to bite the team and the fans. This is about more than just the defense of the Sounders in general, but game specific issues that will come up today. Defensively the Sounders have two of their stalwarts out, this in a match with one of MLS' true target forwards. Casey hasn't been the man this year, but that isn't to say he still can't be. His 6'2" frame plays large in the box, but Seattle can't over-commit to him and leave someone open in service.

But it gets more intense. The Rapids are a good run of play defensive team, but nearly as vulnerable as the Sounders on the set-play. Seattle needs to return to that danger the showed in 2009 netting nearly 25% of their goals on the set. Montero needs to take any Free Kick within 40 yards and Ljungberg needs to provide the service on corners. One, he's actually better at it than popular opinion. Half of his assists last year came off of the set. Two, I don't expect the second best player at this to be on the pitch.

Lastly, let's see the team learn from the success that Fucito had with the Wizards winner. Make those runs on deep throw-ins and catch the opponent napping. We haven't seen those runs, but there have been opportunities.

If the Sounders are +1 GD on the set today they will win.

Manage Casey and Cummings - Looking back at the Scouting Report you can see that these two are having poor seasons, but it would be absurd to think they don't have the same skill-sets that lead them to be two of the five best offensive players during the 2009 season. Omar Cummings was the most complete forward last year in terms of being both a scorer in run of play and having the vision to guide the offense. Now, the Rapids have changed his role from second striker to winger. Seattle needs to take advantage of that mistake.

Casey, as mentioned earlier has a solid frame, is a true target in MLS, and is currently in awful form. The good news with the 4-2-1-3 is that Seattle should have four bodies near him preventing his ability to receive the ball. But it also takes solid wing play to prevent service. I'm not saying that Ballouchy should be overlooked, but the Rapids side is one that is as dependent on two players as the Galaxy are.

Freddie Ljungberg- After being publicly criticized by his coach, and ridiculed by fans, he can make several strides forward with a return to the production we expect. I actually don't care how much he jaws at the referee unless he gets a card. Things like that don't actually matter. What we aren't seeing is the Swede connect with his 'mates during run of play. We aren't seeing the throughballs at the feet of running wingers. With him as the CAM we need to see him pick apart the opposing defenses.

He knows he's going to get knocked down. Hopefully that's happening after he's threaded a ball to the streaking Zakuani or Sanna Nyassi. Ljungberg won't play 90 today. But if we can see a goal off of his quality play, and it has been quality play this year, the image that fans hold will change. Even if he still complains to the referee.

Notes

KONG and KIRO FM today for English broadcasts.

I'll have the gamethread here.

On a damp and cold Memorial Day weekend I ask you to do two things. First, think about those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for your nation. Second, and much less important think about making it a weekend of soccer and hanging with Arlo, Kasey Keller, Gaschk and Clare at Elysian Fields on Sunday.