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Scouting Update: Change is the only constant

Injury comings and goings means a new lineup again, and RSL changes their layout and personnel

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

With the Seattle Sounders facing the exact same team they faced last week, there unsurprisingly isn’t a lot of history to catch up on, nor new performance trends for players and team. Last week’s scouting report is a good place to start if you’re looking for an understanding of the sort of team the local side are up against.

There are, however, a few storylines to check in on that may have major implications on how the teams will line up, and how the game will progress.

Winging it

The increasingly desperate offensive situation increased another level of desperation last week with the early loss to injury of one of the only north-south attackers left healthy, Handwalla Bwana. That he was looking pretty good in the match and combining well with others only made the loss sting more. Now that it looks like he’ll be out for a while recovering from what has been deemed a “mid-foot sprain”, things are look particularly dire.

There’s some very, very, very good news on the rest of the attacking front that should help offset that. Victor Rodriguez and his beautiful touch and vision have been increasingly active in practices of late and he looks likely to get at least a short runout this week. It probably won’t be a start, and he isn’t going to drag this team to the top of the standings on his own, but he’s a dimension the team could really use right now.

Putting the best feet forward

Will Bruin’s possible return (similar situation, unlikely to start) also raises an interesting conundrum for Schmetzer in how to approach lining the team up. Do you give Felix Chenkam his first start to allow for a like-for-like swap later on without having to mix up tactical directives? I think this is the best option (though, I thought that last week as well) and one we likely see this time around.

The constant injury flux means we’ll almost certainly see yet another new lineup, and a bit of a triaged setup. Last week’s 4-1-4-1 worked out alright to start with, but a return to the familiar 4-2-3-1 seems the most likely decision.

RSL have a new frontal lobe

Albert Rusnak, he of the “I’m happy to be able to leave Salt Lake City for a bit”, has left for international duty, and that leaves a creativity hole in an RSL lineup that already struggles to generate solid opportunities. They haven’t struggled to get close to opportunities, though, and that’s largely down to Rusnak’s abilities. He’s their leader in xGC (expected goal chain), xA (expected assists), and xB (expected buildup) (an explanation of these stats can be found here).

If anyone is going to replace Rusnak’s functions and give the Sounders fits, it’s going to be Sebastian (Bofo) Saucedo, who seems quite capable of playmaking from the outside. His two assists Wednesday weren’t just luck. Fortunately for opponents, there aren’t really any other creatives on the team, so over-focused defensive attention on him should help neutralize the threat.

In their midweek game, Mike Petke slipped them into a 4-3-3 while getting Joao Plata, Kyle Beckerman and Corey Baird just a few substitute minutes to keep them fresh. In spite of another win, there still wasn’t much to suggest it gave them any better of a handle on a coherent defense. Even with all the other concerns, there’s no reason to think Seattle doesn’t have at least a puncher’s chance going into tomorrow’s match if they can figure out a coherent offensive package.

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