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Five things we want to see when the Sounders play Sporting Kansas City

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Sounders have gone just 4-4-1 in league play since they last played KC.

MLS: Sporting Kansas City at Seattle Sounders FC Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

First place is on the line today when the Seattle Sounders visit Sporting KC for a match being played on FS1. Here’s what we’re hoping to see.

Regroup and respond

Wednesday night was not ideal. It wasn’t just that the Sounders lost a cup final but the way they conceded the three goals to León in the second half. All of them came down to avoidable mistakes from Seattle’s defenders. It’s a disappointing way to lose any game but especially one with a trophy on the line.

There’s no time to sulk, however. The Sounders have to travel to take on a Sporting KC side that sits at the top of the Western Conference. SKC didn’t play midweek so the Sounders have their backs against the wall and will need to put in a gutsy performance. Learn from what happened on Wednesday night and take points off the rivals for first place in the West. - Mark

Return of BBQ tears

Once upon a time, the Sounders had a pretty fun habit of breaking KC’s heart with late goals. They even managed this a few times in Kansas City. But that seems like a lifetime ago at this point. The Sounders have just won three of the teams’ last 13 MLS meetings and you need to go all the way back to 2013 to find the last time they won in Kansas City. With first place in the Western Conference on the line, now would be a good team to reverse that trend. If it takes a late goal to make it happen, all the better. - Jeremiah

Defense wins championships

The Sounders have the best defense in the league from a statistical standpoint. We haven’t seen much of the best backline in recent months, largely due to injuries and international callups. With the regular-season stretch run upon us, Seattle needs to solidify their backline and get their best players on the field.

Nouhou was putting up a Defender of the Year season up until he got hurt. He’s taken longer to recover from his injury than anyone expected and has looked sluggish in his return. When speaking with the media this week, Brian Schmetzer said that it was a coach’s decision to not play Nouhou against León. The Sounders are better with Nouhou on the field and the player needs to sort out what’s going on so that he can get back to his best. - Mark

Contain Russell

Dániel Sallói is the SKC player who is putting up MVP-like numbers this season, but Johnny Russell is the player that always causes Seattle problems. He lit up the Sounders earlier this season when these two teams played. The left side of the defense will need to keep an eye on the Scot so that he doesn’t kill Seattle again. Isolating him and denying him service will go a long way to prevent him from doing his thing. - Mark

Getting their groove back

The Sounders are just 4-4-1 in league play since the Sounders lost to Sporting KC in their first meeting of the year. That’s not anything to panic about, but it’s notable that the Sounders have scored more than one goal in just two of those games while registering just two shutouts. They can surely continue on like this and still comfortably qualify for the playoffs, but that’s no recipe to make an MLS Cup run. Now that Leagues Cup is out of the way — a competition which, by the way, showed how much potential they have — they can focus solely on MLS play and one good result against a top opponent may be all they need to get going in the right direction. - Jeremiah