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Schmetzer identifies midfield battle as crucial to victory against RSL

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The Sounders coach stressed that it’s not just about Alonso versus Beckerman, but rather how the entire midfield matches up

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Seattle Sounders FC Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

As the Sounders find themselves in a similar position to last season—facing Real Salt Lake on the final matchday needing to win—head coach Brian Schmetzer is confident in his team’s chances. But not too confident. “I’m not going to predict any victory,” Schmetzer said. “What I am going to make sure we do is prepare the team as best we can, and then with the crowd’s help, hopefully we can put on a good performance.”

Even Schmetzer admits that the similarities between the final days of both last season and this season are strikingly similar. “I think last year’s team had a strong mentality and a good group of players, a talented group of players. I can say that about last year and this year.” He expects a strong showing from an extremely prepared and organized RSL side, and expects the same from his own.

The Sounders coach praised Real Salt Lake coach Jeff Cassar and his team, pointing out a number of on-field battles that will define the match. Instead of hyping up the Osvaldo Alonso vs. Kyle Beckerman narrative, Schmetzer said that the entire midfield battle will be crucial to the outcome of the match. “It’s not just Beckerman versus Ozzie, I think it’s Cristian-Ozzie or Cristian-Friberg, however we shape our triangle versus Sunny and Beckerman and Morales or Mulholland, who’s a little more of an attacking threat.”

Other battles that Schmetzer highlighted for Sunday’s match are Joao Plata and Burrito Martinez vs. the Sounders’ fullbacks and Yura Movsisyan “against our two big guys,” meaning centerbacks Chad Marshall and Roman Torres. Either way, Schmetzer said that his team is ready for anything that Cassar’s men can throw at them. “We did our due diligence, we looked at a bunch of games, and we’ll have a good game plan for them.”

As of Thursday, Schmetzer wasn’t prepared to give updates on most of the players facing injury issues, saying that they won’t really know who will be ready until the end of training on Saturday. He did say that Nelson Valdez, who was a late scratch against FC Dallas with a bruised tailbone, is “a tough man, and I expect him to be there on Sunday.”

Despite the extended festivities surrounding Sunday’s match as it is retiring defender Zach Scott’s last regular season match, Schmetzer said that he can’t guarantee an appearance for Mr. Sounder. “Zach would tell me, if he was telling me what to do on Sunday, ‘make sure that the team wins. I don’t care if I play.’” He said that if the game is going well, it’s certainly an option to bring Scott on for a ceremonial appearance in front of a full-stadium crowd—but admits that “we can’t predict that.”