It might come as a little bit of a surprise given the narrative around the team, but Real Salt Lake currently occupies a playoff spot in the hyper-competitive Western Conference. That they’re only two points clear of the No. 8 spot, though, underscores how big of a match this is for them. Despite playing on a day less rest than the Sounders, we should expect them to field as close to a first-choice lineup as they can muster.
Here’s what we’re hoping to see.
Test the depth
The Sounders are in the midst of the most grueling portion of the season. Because they beat Santos on Tuesday, they’re going to the Leagues Cup final this coming Wednesday. Including that game, Seattle will play seven games between Sept. 11th and Oct. 3rd. That’s essentially one game every three days for three weeks and there aren’t really any gimmes in the bunch. The good news is that thanks to their injury crisis earlier in the year, their depth has now been tested. They’ll need it to show up again during this stretch starting with Real Salt Lake. Players like Will Bruin and Kelyn Rowe need to step up and lead the team. — Mark
Don’t lose sight of league play
The Leagues Cup is very cool and I would really, really like for the Sounders to win it. However, winning that trophy cannot come at the expense of sacrificing their league standing, and potentially a berth in next year’s Concacaf Champions League. I don’t think either are mutually exclusive, but managing both is going to be tricky. With Sporting KC and Colorado Rapids both being hot in the West — and among Seattle’s opponents during this stretch — the Sounders do need to keep an eye on what’s going on behind them in the West. Also, with two games in hand on the New England Revolution, the Supporters’ Shield isn’t completely out of the question, either. RSL is fighting for a playoff spot themselves and should not be underestimated. — Mark
What Chú got for me?
On Tuesday night we got to see a brief but impressive cameo from new signing Léo Chú. He dribbled out of bounds a couple of times but he also did incredibly well to set up Raúl Ruidíaz for the last-second winner. Giving Chú the start against RSL would make some sense as it would be a good chance to see what he can do with extended minutes against a potentially fatigued opponent. He brings something different to the Seattle lineup that we haven’t really seen so far this season: Pace. I’d like to see Chú in one of those attacking midfielder positions, possibly with Will Bruin at striker. The two can combine with Bruin’s hold-up play and Chu’s pace and dribbling. — Mark
Use Freddy’s knowledge
It was only a few weeks ago that Freddy Juarez was the head coach of RSL. It’s not very often that you get that sort of inside knowledge of an opponent. While Pablo Mastroeni has changed up RSL’s tactics some, the personnel is literally unchanged. Is it a potentially unfair advantage? Probably! But there’s absolutely no reason that the Sounders shouldn’t exploit it. — Jeremiah
Stop the streak against RSL
The Sounders are just 1-9-3 at RSL in the regular season. That’s their worst record at any MLS stadium by points per game. Their only regular-season win there came in 2011, which actually snapped RSL’s record home unbeaten streak (29 games). It’s as though RSL has been paying them back for that ever since, as the Sounders have gone 0-8-2 and been outscored 19-5 in the regular-season at RSL ever since (the Sounders did win a 2012 playoff game and won a 2016 U.S. Open Cup penalty shootout at Rio Tinto Stadium). That 10-game road winless streak is the longest against any opponent in Sounders history. Given the Sounders’ road form — they’re 7-1-2 in 2021, including four straight wins — now seems like a good time to snap this streak at RSL. — Jeremiah