The Seattle Sounders travel this weekend to take on Real Salt Lake in a rematch of last year’s opening playoff round, which saw RSL leave victorious on penalties under pretty weird circumstances. In order to make sure this one isn’t as weird as that one, here are five things we’d like to see on Saturday.
Rotation musical chairs
You know the drill, the Sounders are split between two stools early in the season. They want to put together a strong showing in Concacaf Champions League, but also have to deal with the weirdness of starting an MLS regular season campaign at the same time. Even though they have about a week’s rest coming off the loss to Nashville SC, they do play this Tuesday against Club León.
The Sounders will need to rotate against RSL — it seems to early for Nicolás Lodeiro and João Paulo to start two games in four days — but I would still hope they don’t make wholesale changes. Léo Chú can start in the place of injured Raúl Ruidíaz, with Sam Adeniran getting another crack at forward and Jordan Morris moving to the right. Hopefully, we see Obed Vargas start again, maybe next to Cristian Roldan.
Finding joy at Rio Tinto
A trip to Sandy, Utah usually is bad news for the Sounders. Since winning a playoff game there in 2012, the Sounders are 0-9-2 in all competitions when they’ve played at Rio Tinto. There’s no real explanation for it, but some chaotic energy seems to exist near that salt lake.
There might not be a better time for the Sounders to play against RSL, though. They’re going to be without four or five starters, including David Ochoa. Also there’s the added motivation of what happened in the playoffs last season.
Obed Vargas to the moon
It’s been a wild few weeks for the teenager from Alaska. Before the season started, he was expected to be little more than a promising rotational piece. But he started the season-opener against Motagua and has managed to stay in the lineup in the two games since. Because of where the roster is at in terms of rotation and injuries, Vargas is probably going to start against RSL — and that’s no bad thing. I thought he was the best midfielder on the pitch against Nashville and seems to have the tools to get even better. He’ll be important against a team like RSL that doesn’t plan on having the ball very much.
Set the Tempo
The Sounders have only played three games this season so nothing is a trend yet. However, in two of those three games, they’ve played teams that disrupted their control of the match. It’s concerning and Brian Schmetzer mentioned it this week in training after mentioning it in his press conference following the Nashville loss.
Oftentimes against Nashville, Seattle had no options but to recycle the ball to their fullbacks and then back into the midfield. It looked stagnate and the Sounders need to find a way to get their forwards and wide midfielders more involved against RSL.
Saturday against RSL has every chance of being one of the weirdest games to happen. So, obviously Albert Rusnák used to play for RSL and he was their captain. Ahead of this match, RSL are planning on having some sort of ceremony honoring their former captain, who obviously plays for the Sounders now. That is bananas and bonkers and weird.
There’s one way to make this even funnier: Rusnák getting his first Sounders goal against his former club. I can’t think of anything better.