The Seattle Sounders extended their unbeaten run to the season to 6-0-3 with a gutsy road win in LA on Saturday.
Next up: A mid-week home match vs. Western Conference foe Real Salt Lake at Lumen Field on Wednesday evening (6:00 p.m. PT; JOEtv, Prime Video, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM | TICKETS).
Real Salt Lake have had an excellent start to the season and sit in sixth place in the Western Conference after losing just one of their opening seven games. They have played less games than any other side in the West, so their league position can be a little misleading, but it’s also fair to point out that five of their opening seven games have come at home.
RSL traditionally perform better at Rio Tinto Stadium and it was their poor away form last year, just one win from nine, that cost them a playoff appearance. This season RSL have won at Minnesota and tied at FC Dallas in their two road games, so they have shown they have the ability to pick up a result on their travels and they are not a team that can be underestimated.
So what has been key to their success? The addition of Rubio Rubin has so far exceeded expectations. After initially struggling during stints in Holland, Norway and Mexico, the former US Youth International has taken his MLS chance with both hands and added a dynamic element to the number 9 role for RSL. His return of four goals is impressive, but he can also open up space for others to exploit in scoring position. Damir Kreilach is one that has freely attacked the space Rubin opens up and is coming off a two-goal performance against Vancouver. Anderson Julio was a constant threat on the right in that win and Albert Rusnak is also a constant threat with his clever movement and passing range.
Bobby Wood would offer a much more in-behind number 9 threat and RSL are keen to get the US International on the field to add to their attack. If he makes his debut against the Sounders he offers a very different attacking threat.
Rave Green Machine:
The Sounders are coming off another win where they had a lot less possession but still came away with three points. The victory over LA Galaxy offers a great example of when not to put too much emphasis on which team had more possession. LA had 60 percent of the ball yet their expected goals was just 1.39, while the Sounders had an expected goals number of 2.58. It was a classic Sounders win. They were compact defensively, gave up very few chances, yet always looked a goal threat from transition play and set piece opportunities. The Sounders should see more of the possession against RSL but the defensive shape must remain compact for the Sounders to continue their unbeaten start.
Key to the Game:
RSL looked vulnerable on set pieces with Andy Rose almost soaring from a header and another Vancouver chance going just wide. This is an area the Sounders have excelled with 6 headed goals including a Yeimar header in the win at LA.