Three Key Match-Ups: vs. New York Red Bulls

The Sounders and Red Bulls will do battle at CenturyLink Field this afternoon. Here are the math-ups to key on.

Sounders FC vs. New York Red Bulls
September 29, 2013, 6 pm PT; CenturyLink Field
TV/Radio: ESPN; 97.3 FM 

After Saturday’s results, New York and Seattle are now second and third in the Supporters’ Shield standings, respectively, but that doesn’t take any importance off of their meeting Sunday at CenturyLink Field. A win for Seattle would put Sounders FC atop the table, while a win or draw for New York would put the Red Bulls in first ahead of Real Salt Lake.

Here are three key matchups to watch for in the clash for MLS supremacy.

Tim Cahill and Dax McCarty vs. Osvaldo Alonso and Brad Evans

In many matches, he who commands the middle of the park commands the game. With this foursome manning the middle, it should a great battle for that control. A three-time MLS All-Star and 2012 MLS Best XI selection, Alonso is widely considered one of the best defensive midfielders in the league. McCarty plays the role a bit differently, but is highly thought-of as a deep-lying playmaker. With FC Dallas, he had standout assist seasons with seven in 2007 and six in 2009, but has become more of a scoring threat with New York, where he has three goals in each of the last two seasons. Cahill scored 108 goals in England for Millwall and Everton and came to the Red Bulls last year, where he has been a steady influence for the top team in the East. He is a dangerous scoring threat as a late runner into the box and as a target on free kicks, totaling eight goals this season. Finally, Evans is likely to make his return to the starting lineup after missing three matches with a calf strain and coming off the bench last week in a 1-1 draw with the LA Galaxy. In 20 appearances, he has three goals and five assists, but does not shirk his defensive responsibilities, providing a consistent link between the defense and offense.

Luis Robles vs. a hostile environment at CenturyLink Field

The New York goalkeeper is sixth in the league with a 1.20 goals against average in his first full season in MLS. His 10 shutouts rank second, a position shared with Seattle’s Michael Gspurning, among others. However, Robles has struggled on the road. At Red Bull Arena, he has allowed 12 goals in 15 matches for a 0.80 GAA. Away from his home stadium, that number doubles – 24 goals in 15 matches for a 1.60 GAA. Seven of his 10 shutouts have come at home, while four of the five matches that have seen him allow three goals came on the road. How he handles the Seattle attack and the nearly 40,000 in attendance will go a long way in determining the result for New York.

Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins vs. Ibrahim Sekagya and Markus Holgersson

It’s becoming a common theme, but very few teams in the league can contend with Seattle’s attacking speed with Johnson and Martins. New York's Sekagya and Holgersson are no exception. A healthy Jamison Olave would have been a better matchup, but with him staying behind for the trip, it is now up to the much less fleet of feet pair to put a stop to the fast and fluid Seattle strike pair. Add in that 11 of the 16 goals scored by Johnson and Martins and all eight scored by Lamar Neagle have come at CenturyLink Field and that task appears even more daunting.

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