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Keys to Game: Sounders at DC United

Sometimes games come at odd times for fans. Maybe its because they are in middle of the week, with a start time right about when work ends. Or maybe the timing feels odd because there are off field concerns with a team; how many people are more concerned about the shifting homes of designated players than they are with United?

But the fact is that there is a game, and the Seattle Sounders have already reached must win territory, as they need two points a game on average over the remaining schedule to have a shot at the Playoffs. The good news is that the Sounders have played well against East Coast teams, and Kasey Keller owns RFK. The bad news is that DC United area better team than when we last saw them.

How will Seattle get three points tonight?

Focus on Match at Hand - This carries for us, the fans, but even more so for the players and coaching staff. Tonight the only people who should have any concern about Freddie Ljungberg's future are Freddie, Adrian and a few people in the front office. His not being on the trip will mean that at least one player plays that normally would not. Everything else about his future should have no impact. He will not be in Black and Red.

The players on the pitch tonight have a ball, a goal to attack and a goal to defend. Any mental distractions could be the difference between a properly completed pass and a clearance well the ability of the receiving player to get the ball. Today is just about one thing - one game. Success tonight is all that can matter to the players, and to the fans.

New Combinations are New Chemistry - Both sides in this contest have added players who will be first eligible today. With the Sounders injury concern, and that Ljungberg thing, the lineup has been in constant flux. From these factors the game will see new combinations on both sides of the ball. Neither team will be able to rely on practice, but instead will have to hope that these combinations will have good chemistry and connect well with each other.

On offense the Sounders will have a new right midfielder again, and Nate Jaqua up top possibly with a dash of Blaise Nkufo. How those guys integrate with the talents of Steve Zakuani and Fredy Montero will determine the success of the offense. The defense has recently been strong, as they are building upon some success, with new replacements, but there are likely changes there. It will be imperative that the backline has the strong communication that defined it last season.

Jaqua Again - I've been much more comfortable with the offense in the few minutes that we've been able to see with Nate Jaqua healthy. The flow seems much stronger, the ability of the faster players to run off the advanced pivot give this team a strong dimension. Nate's ability to cause some trouble in the air, particularly on set-plays will help the team succeed as well.

The Green need to feed him the ball as much as possible so that he can trouble the United backline. But Nate also needs the opportunity to show how much playing time he deserves with Nkufo on the squad. This is that last opportunity for such a test. How Jaqua answers those questions will be key to the Open Cup, CCL and even the remaining League season.

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