Neither Seattle nor Salt Lake are at a place in the standings where they are comfortable. From 2009 to the present these two sides and Houston could all place strong claims as the second best team in MLS to the Galaxy. Real Salt Lake and the Seattle Sounders both went through significant rebuilds. RSL is without Olave, Espindola and W. Johnson. They've been without Javier Morales and Nat Borchers for the early season, though Borchers is back now and Morales could be. The Seattle Sounders also have injuries and reloaded in the off-season (a bit during the season too).
Answering Three Questions is Matt from RSLSoapBox.com.
SaH: The diamond is more lopsided this year. How do the more creative players at wide mid change Kries' system?
RSLSB: I'd actually disagree that it's more lopsided, but more balanced than it has been in recent years. At times, RSL took on a more rigid look with the diamond, with Javier Morales very clearly up top, two players very clearly deeper (one of those more defensively minded), and one player very clearly back. With more creative players at our central midfield positions, we've been able to play with a more loosely defined midfield that features a good deal of rotation and flexibility. Whether that remains the case when Javier Morales returns remains to be seen, but the heavier involvement throughout the midfield in creative play has been a strong asset for Jason Kreis's system. It's not quite firing on all cylinders yet, but it's getting there.
SaH: Salt Lake brought back Robbie Findley. What is different from his first MLS stint?
RSLSB: Robbie Findley comes back an obviously more mature player, but there hasn't been the Eddie Johnson-style revitalization to his play. He's started a little slowly, but he's shown a better touch - a major complaint about him before his departure - and that's positive. It's obviously a bit different for him because while he knows the system, he doesn't have the same understanding with the players around him that he was able to gradually build in his first stint. The expectations are high, and while he's not yet shown fully what he's capable of, there's a sense that a Javier Morales return will benefit him.
SaH: Left back is a rotating cast so far this season. Who brings what to the table?
RSLSB: It sure is, but only out of necessity. Chris Wingert brings reliability, but he's injured. Abdoulie Mansally brings speed and a good eye for interceptions but plenty of erratic defending. He's likely to be starting on Saturday. Chris Schuler brings a fantastic defensive mind but perhaps not the attacking thrust needed. Lovel Palmer brings a bit of defensive awareness and a bit of attacking awareness, as well as some consistency.
Significant injuries? Chris Wingert is out. Javier Morales could return.
Starting Lineup? Rimando; Beltran, Borchers, Schuler, Mansally; Beckerman, Grabavoy, Velasquez, Gil; Saborio, Findley
RSLSB: With CONCACAF Champions League play approaching very, very quickly, what will Sigi Schmid do to approach Saturday's match? Which is more important to the side?
SaH: Sigi's got to balance the importance of the matches with the return of national teamers. It is not the easiest situation, but with the team not qualifying for the next CCL cycle they have to make as strong a push as they can now. For that reason, plus the RioT being at elevation I would expect several of the name starters to be held out of the starting XI. When you make a little bit of history you have to push for even more.
RSLSB: Sounders have one point from three, RSL are with four points from four - neither side has started the season in a particularly strong way. How will they improve as time marches on?
SaH: The main issue right now is the offense. Some of that is chance conversion. The team should have more goals than they do just from the limited opportunities they've created. But more importantly they have to create more chances, particularly inside the 18. The best way to do that is get more talented. They did that when they added Martins, but they also need Rosales' crosses to be more effective. Twice now his game has been limited due to a back injury from match play. Steve Zakuani is creating a ton of opportunities and those will start to get knocked into the net. The defense is absolutely fine. Fixing that offense is the key.
RSLSB: What will it take for Obafemi Martins to slot into the side? Are we likely to see him on Saturday, or will he be held off for Tuesday?
SaH: Martins was brought in after the season started, then flew thousands of miles just to get a 20 minute run against Portland. He then went away for National Team duty in Nigeria. Thursday is his first ever training session with the Sounders and since he was in middle of the La Liga season he should be expected to play both Saturday and Tuesday. He's a classic number 9 with a little bit of speed which means Seattle's shape will most often look like an empty bucket 4-4-2 with no one in that central space that Montero used.
Significant injuries: Patrick Ianni is out. Shalrie Joseph not yet match fit, but should be in 18.
Starting lineup: Gspurning; Burch, Traore, Hurtado, Yedlin; Zakuani, Rose, Alonso, Caskey; Martins, Johnson (but with an early sub)