The Sounders will entertain their Western Conference rivals on Friday night. Here are the match-ups to key on.
Sounders FC vs. Real Salt Lake
September 13, 2013, 7 pm PT; CenturyLink Field
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Network; 97.3 FM; La Gran D 99.3 FM (Spanish)
Sounders FC and Real Salt Lake need no introductions to each other. The two top clubs in the MLS Supporters’ Shield race have met 16 times across all competitions since Seattle joined MLS in 2009 and each has been riddled with fierce duels on the field.
With the roles of U.S. National Team players Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson and Kyle Beckerman all unclear for Friday’s match after they all started in Tuesday's 2-0 win over Mexico, those three will be excluded from talk of potential matchups. So here are three matchups that will be worth watching.
Luis Gil vs. DeAndre Yedlin
Two of the brightest stars of the U.S. U-20 National Team in 2013’s FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey will likely see plenty of each other at CenturyLink Field. Gil has been strong in the RSL midfield, picking up the intricate diamond-shaped midfield with relative ease and having a standout season with five goals and three assists in 24 matches. On the other side, Yedlin has been a consistent Rookie of the Year candidate at right back and earned the nod in the MLS All-Star Game in July. The two are both gifted with speed and ball skills and could be future teammates on the U.S. National Team, but on Friday will be as competitive as ever against each other.
Javier Morales vs. Osvaldo Alonso
When Morales is on, he is MVP caliber and this year is no exception. The three-time MLS All-Star has seven goals and 10 assists for RSL this season and is crucial to its attack, particularly in the absence of leading scorer Alvaro Saborio. However, he has been relatively quiet against Seattle, going without a goal or an assist in eight appearances against Sounders FC. That is thanks in large part to the defensive prowess of Alonso. The 2012 MLS Best XI defensive midfielder is typically charged with putting the clamps on Morales, limiting his opportunity to create scoring chances for his teammates. Seattle’s team defense has been the focus, allowing just one goal in its last four matches and Alonso has been pivotal to that, setting the defensive tone for Sounders FC with his unending work rate.
Obafemi Martins vs. Carlos Salcedo
Salcedo has been impressive in his first MLS season. The 19-year-old center back has started 10 matches for the typically stingy Salt Lake defense and RSL has allowed just 11 goals in those starts. However, it has been feast or famine for opposing forwards, as Salt Lake has four shutouts in Salcedo’s starts, allowing three multi-goal games in his last six appearances. One of those came in the form of a Robbie Keane hat trick. Seattle’s world class striker in Martins will look to duplicate that feat against the promising young Salcedo. A player with the veteran savvy of Martins can exploit Salcedo’s youth with the well-timed runs and strong technical ability that have helped Martins to seven goals in 16 matches for Seattle.