Sounders FC vs. Real Salt Lake
MLS Regular Season
Saturday, May 31; 1 pm PT; CenturyLink Field
TV/Radio: Q-13 FOX (locally); ROOT Sports (regionally); KIRO Radio 97.3 FM; ESPN Deportes Radio, 1490 AM (Spanish)
For the second time in the last nine months, Sounders FC will host Real Salt Lake in a meeting of the top two teams in the race for the Supporters' Shield. However, this time around it is Seattle that holds the high ground, leading the pack with an 8-3-2 record for 26 points while RSL is close behind with an unbeaten 6-0-6 record and 24 points.
"I think it's great. These are the games that players look to play in," Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. "It's a big game. We're at home. We're in front of our fans. That's always exciting for us. And it's a chance for us to retain our position at the top of table and that's what we want to do."
In their last regular season meeting in September, Seattle played perhaps its best match of the 2013 season, dismantling Salt Lake to the tune of a 2-0 victory at CenturyLink Field, lifting Sounders FC to the top of the table. The crowd of 55,107 was treated to a pair of first-half goals from Lamar Neagle and Obafemi Martins and Seattle coasted to victory from there, even without Brad Evans, Clint Dempsey or Eddie Johnson in the starting lineup.
It's still early in the season and both teams will be missing key pieces to international duty, but matches with Real Salt Lake have never lacked for drama. They met in the 2011 and 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs, with Salt Lake winning 3-2 after staving off a frantic Seattle comeback in the second leg, and Sounders FC winning the following year with a stunning Mario Martinez goal in the second leg to break a scoreless deadlock.
Seattle and RSL are two of the three MLS teams to reach the MLS Cup playoffs every year since 2009 along with the LA Galaxy, so it's no wonder the two teams have endured so many hard-fought contests in their 12 all-time meetings in the regular season.
"Historically, it's always close games with those guys. It's a bit of a rivalry," Evans said. "We're expecting a good battle."
While always fervent in their on-field clashes, both teams will also be depleted by international call-ups and injuries. Seattle won't have Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin, while Salt Lake will play without Nick Rimando and Kyle Beckerman while those four players prepare for the World Cup with the U.S. National Team.
In addition, Salt Lake forward Alvaro Saborio fractured his foot in camp with Costa Rica and will miss three-to-four months while Seattle defender Djimi Traore is expected out with an adductor tear.
Even while testing the depth of both clubs, there will still be plenty of talent on the field on Saturday.
"We're missing some people. They're missing some people. I think they're still a good team," Schmid said. "It's the top two teams in the league, so it should be a great game."