If it seems like we just did this with Sporting KC, you wouldn’t be wrong. The Sounders and SKC just played less than a month ago. Just like that meeting, the Sounders are playing on short rest while SKC is coming in on full rest. Of course, the Sounders won that one, allowing them to reassert control in the Western Conference.
They’re facing off again on Saturday with the stakes in just about the same place. Here’s what we’re hoping to see:
Slow their start
Sporting KC is trailing the Sounders by six points with a game in hand. In other words, a tie isn’t going to do much to change the nature of this race. Given that, I fully expect Sporting KC to come out firing and looking to get out front early. The Sounders, meanwhile, have the luxury of knowing that a tie suits their purposes and simply playing to zero works just fine for them.
A win goes a long way
Of course, winning would be preferable. A win would put the Sounders nine points clear of Sporting KC and keep them at least six points ahead of the Colorado Rapids with both teams having just three games remaining. It would put the Sounders in position to clinch the top spot in the Western Conference with one more win. In the bigger picture, a win would also ensure that the Sounders finish with more points than any team in the Eastern Conference other than the New England Revolution.
Shut down Johnny
If there’s been one consistent thorn in the side of the Sounders whenever they play Sporting KC, it’s Johnny Russell. The Scotland international has five goals in six career matches against the Sounders, including tallies in each of their meetings this year. He’s also riding a six-game goal-scoring streak — that’s the eighth longest in MLS history. Russell is an extremely left-footed player, with 9 of 11 goals coming off his favored foot and the other two being headers. The Sounders simply can’t allow him to cut in from the right or give away cheap free kicks.
Weird as it may seem, Sporting KC is one of just two teams not to have lost two straight all year. The other is, predictably, the New England Revolution. Well, the Sounders can change that after Sporting KC lost their last game to the Whitecaps. The Sounders, meanwhile, are in the midst of a two-game winless streak and are trying to avoid their second three-game winless run of the season.
More minutes for Chú
I don’t think Léo Chú is going to start this game, in part because I’m not sure he’s quite ready to match up with Sporting KC for 90 minutes. But he has proven that he can change games off the bench and I’d love to see him get 30 minutes or so to run at tired legs. Chú has been absolutely electric in every appearance and I can’t wait to see how he develops.