Over the last three days, we’ve looked at players on the field for Real Salt Lake and the Sounders FC from the perspective of RSL color commentator Brian Dunseth.
Today, we take one last look at the matchup between the two MLS titans as the aggregate goal series starts tonight at CenturyLink Field, with the return leg coming next Thursday at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.
Question: RSL won the MLS Cup in 2009 at CenturyLink Field. How much do those fond memories carry over into their success in Seattle?
Dunseth: "I think both teams are very comfortable playing at each other’s stadiums. For me, it’s a war of attrition, a war of health, with such a short amount of recovery time. I think thankfully for both teams they are thankful that they weren’t in the play-in game. Both played in the CONCACAF Champions League. Seattle had another incredible run in the Open Cup. You throw in national team call-ups for Real Salt Lake and there’s a lot of travel involved. Seattle has had a couple of players that have been involved in the national team, but not a lot, which is crazy to me that more players aren’t rewarded for how successful this team’s been. That is a positive though with the long Open Cup battle and a lot of travel in CONCACAF."
Q: Is this a make-or-break year for Salt Lake? How are they approaching the playoffs?
Dunseth: "Publicly they’ve been talking about that for a while. For this group to be remembered the right way, they need to win MLS Cup again. They’ve had some success for a while now. They made it to the CONCACAF Champions League final and they were a goal away. But at the end of the day, no Open Cups, no CONCACAF Champions League and it’s been since 2009 since they won a trophy and they’ve been a very, very, very good team in the meantime. But they’re going to judge themselves by the amount of cups that they lift. The way they’ve built this team, should they not win, I think there’s a very realistic possibility that you’re going to see changes. In this past year, you’ve seen Robbie Russell traded to DC, Andy Williams retired and some good young players were taken in the expansion draft. If it doesn’t turn out the way they want it to, I think realistically and absolutely you could see some changes."
Q: What’s going to be the X-factor or the matchup to watch in this series?
Dunseth: “As always, it’s in the midfield. It’s Ozzie and Kyle, for me, the premiere central midfielders in the league. They are two guys that I think have a lot of respect for each other, but at the same time, literally, kick each other up and down the field. Two players that are incredible in terms of their possession and how good they are linking up in the transition from defense to offense. I’m definitely excited to see what happens. There are some of the greatest attackers on both sides and I think some very good defenders in Major League Soccer on both sides. It will be interesting to see where the mistakes are made and ultimately who can punish those mistakes because I think that will be the key.”
Kickoff tonight is scheduled for 7 pm Pacific Time with television coverage on KONG 6/16 locally, Root Sports regionally and NBC Sports nationally.
Dunseth is not only a commentator for Real Salt Lake broadcasts. He also contributes to NBC Sports Network, Fox Soccer and the Pac-12 Network.