There are times when you think you know an opponent. Whether these come about from playing them 15 times in all competitions (good for second most against the Sounders), or because they play one of those styles that just draw your eyes, it does not matter. You feel you know them. And then you exchange Three Questions and find out you're wrong. The weaknesses you see are not the weaknesses they see. Question number one about the forwards not having an established pairing is a perfect example of that.
Our guide today is Matt from RSLSoapBox. Prior to our exchange news came down that Kwame Watson-Sirobe is out long term and Chris Schuler may be out for a length of time as well. This is the way of an email exchange. But it does not change what Real Salt Lake is. They are the diamond, led by Javier Morales and Kyle Beckerman.
SaH: The forward pairings are not as effective as in past years. Will getting Sabario back from a healthy chunk of international duty help them return to the effectiveness that he and Espindola led the league to expect?
RSLSB: I'm not actually sure what you mean by that. We had one - count 'em, one - genuine pairing last year, and that was it. We have actual pairings now - Findley/Plata, Sandoval/Plata, Sandoval/Garcia, Plata/Garcia, Findley/Saborio, Plata/Saborio - the list goes on. We're on track to score the most goals we've ever scored in a season, and we have greater contribution from across the squad. Saborio's return obviously helps us, but he is no longer the only player scoring regularly.
SaH: Luis Gil is awesome. He's also gone. How do the various options to take over wide for him change the system?
RSLSB: Honestly, they don't change it all that much. The system remains the same, whether Sebastian Velasquez or Khari Stephenson step in. It's interesting, because you'd typically expect a change like that to have a ripple effect. I don't know that it has. All three players - Gil, Velasquez, Stephenson - play tucked in centrally and provide connective play in the middle. Sure, Stephenson offers long shots, Velasquez offers tricky feet, and Gil offers a good intermix, but nobody really changes it. It's a real change from years past, where moving a player in or out might change the approach significantly. All that said, Gil hasn't offered much recently, and we're not really missing out on anything at current.
SaH: Once dominant in the air defensively RSL has dropped off a bit. Is this due to the injuries on the backline and is this something that Seattle can take advantage of?
RSLSB: I'm not actually sure we're worse off in the air. We're not conceding headed goals, and we're winning long balls with frequency. Our injuries in the back have hurt us, but we're not weaker in the air as a result.
Schuler, Watson-Siriboe, Gil out; Saborio doubtful
Rimando; Beltran, Borchers, Salcedo, Wingert; Beckerman, Grabavoy, Velasquez, Morales; Plata, Findley
SaH: The team is probably most confident in Brad Evans ability to go again. The main question is he a right back or a left mid? Some of that may be due to fitness, but whichever place he doesn't start they will be on their third choice. EJ played a more tiring role with the USA than he does with the Sounders and many more minutes over the three Qualifiers than Mario Martinez so is probably the least likely to go 90. Martinez if he starts will be on the left. With Seattle having the next weekend off Sigi could just use them all and try to get maximum points while playing his three forwards together (EJ, Oba, Neagle). This is not going to be a typical lineup or shape for the Sounders.
SaH: Last year's scoreless draw heavy history was boring. Let's not do that again. Can we vote for a 1-1 or a Seattle win? Since losing to RSL the club is 3-1-1 on the road with the loss being that beatdown by LA. A Seattle friendly look at their road form would note that the three losses are really just a Wondo wondergoal and two awful first halves against the other two Western Conference teams that dominate the league. There is no reason to think that the Sounders do not have a chance to win. Except for one thing, that's your third question.
SaH: That's a problem. Risking him to maybe get an extra point or two against Salt Lake could be a big problem. This may be one of those times when Sigi sits him in order to make sure that he heals in full. But that means losing Seattle's best passer (by any measure), their best tackler, their best defender, their second best PK taker. It is a significant and real problem to be without one of the 10-15 best players in the league. That one decision could be the one that determines victory or defeat. Points against RSL are important. Having an awesome July and August is more important.
Projected lineup - Gspurning - Gonzalez, Traore, Scott, Evans; Carrasco; Neagle, Rose, Rosales; Johnson, Martins