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Five things we want to see when Sounders host Real Salt Lake

Now seems like a good time to bid farewell to a legend.

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

If the Seattle Sounders were drawing up an ideal path to MLS Cup, there’s a pretty good chance this was the matchup they were hoping to see in the Western Conference semifinals. It’s not that Real Salt Lake is a bad team or even that the Sounders match up particularly well with them, it’s more that the narratives around the game are a little more manageable. These teams haven’t played each other in a truly meaningful game for at least a couple years and haven’t met in the postseason since 2012.

That doesn’t mean the game is devoid of interesting storylines. Here are five things we want to see:

A Roman Torres-Xavier Arreaga pairing

It’s overstating things to say that Kim Kee-hee has been bad in any of his recent performances and it’s entirely likely that Brian Schmetzer will simply be reluctant to make a change at centerback without being forced to, but Xavier Arreaga offers something the Sounders are otherwise missing. Arreaga has the ability to break lines with both his passing and dribbling, and while he has a tendency to get stretched defensively, RSL isn’t as apt to test the Sounders with balls over the top. This game seems to set up well for Arreaga to shine and Roman Torres has earned the opportunity to keep starting. I’m convinced this pairing offers the Sounders their highest upside and this seems to be the right time to test that theory. - Jeremiah

Go ahead early and don’t look back

A trademark of the Sounders games at the start of this season when they looked like the hottest team in MLS was controlling games by scoring early and often, and not relenting once they had the lead. Against FC Dallas it looked like they might be making a return to that form as they put on pressure that resulted in a 2-0 lead in the 22nd minute. They seemed to lose control not long after, and the result was a wild 120-minute ride. Against RSL Seattle needs to get out to an early lead and lock the door behind them. - Tim

Stretching Victor Rodriguez’s contributions

Possibly the most encouraging thing to come out of Saturday’s win was the performance of Victor Rodriguez. Even without a goal or an assist, you could see how his presence positively influenced the way the Sounders played. Suddenly, the Sounders looked comfortable in possession and stopped struggling to break the press. They also started generating the kind of chances that had dried up from the 38th minute on. Rodriguez ended up playing 53 minutes, which is probably more than the Sounders expected from him. But he came out of it just fine. I don’t think he’s quite ready to start — especially with how well Joevin Jones has looked — but inserting him around the 55-minute mark makes a ton of sense. - Jeremiah

Give everyone something to remember

When the Sounders and Real Salt Lake meet in the playoffs, you’re guaranteed to see something that will stick with you. In 2011 Erik Friberg (and LikkitP) gave us one of the greatest gifs in Sounders history after having had enough of Javier Morales. When the two teams met again in 2012, Mario Martínez sent the Sounders through to the next round with an incredible volley that beat Rimando in Rio Tinto Stadium. Tonight someone’s going to have to claim their moment in the sunlight, and hopefully it’s more along the lines of Martinez’s golazo. - Tim

Give Rimando a proper sendoff

Nick Rimando has already announced this will be his final season, which means this will be his final game if the Sounders win. Rimando is almost certainly the greatest goalkeeper in MLS history and some of his most memorable performances have come against the Sounders. I suspect even the most ardent Sounders fans can admit a grudging respect for Rimando. My hope is that he plays reasonably well while giving up a couple goals and gets a proper acknowledgement from Sounders fans after the game. - Jeremiah

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