The Seattle Sounders continue to prepare for Round One of the 2021 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs against Real Salt Lake (7:30 p.m. PT; FS1, FOX Deportes, 1090 KJR AM, El Rey 1360AM | TICKETS) at Lumen Field on November 23. The Rave Green have qualified for 13 consecutive postseasons, reaching MLS Cup in four of the last five years. For the Sounders, there is only one path forward: straight ahead.
In advance of SEAvRSL, we’re breaking down five storylines that make this a match you can't miss.
HOME POSTSEASON WINNING STREAK
The Sounders enter Tuesday riding an incredible 15-match home postseason winning streak, including a perfect 12-0-0 mark under Schmetzer, despite losing the series at home in 2014 and 2018 after winning the second leg at home. The Sounders haven’t lost a postseason match in Seattle since 2014 and have produced some incredible moments to keep the streak alive, most notably last year’s comeback win over Minnesota United in the Western Conference Championship.
RAÚL RUIDÍAZ’S PROLIFIC POSTSEASON HISTORY
Sounders forward Raúl Ruidíaz is the best and most efficient striker in MLS postseason history, logging an eye-popping nine goals and six assists in 10 career matches over the last three years. He loves the spotlight and the big moments, and he was a vital part of Seattle reaching the last two MLS Cups. With Nicolás Lodeiro’s fitness uncertain, as well as Jordan Morris not yet 90-minute fit, Seattle will need its Peruvian marksman to step up yet again.
TWO POTENT ATTACKS
Like Ruidíaz, Real Salt Lake attacker Damir Kreilach also has a flair for the dramatic. The 32-year-old Croatian had a monster season, scoring 16 goals and adding nine assists, and he carried RSL to the playoffs on nearly the last play of the regular season when he scored a 95th-minute winner against Sporting Kansas City. He also famously scored a scorpion kick volley that helped down juggernauts LAFC in the 2018 postseason. He is excellent in the air and his range is anywhere past midfield. Mastroeni’s side also plays wide open soccer, so the chances will come fast and furious at both ends of the pitch. Whichever team can capitalize will move on to the Western Conference Semifinals.
BRIAN SCHMETZER VS. PABLO MASTROENI PART II
Schmetzer and RSL interim manager Pablo Mastroeni will square off in the postseason for the second time. Schmetzer, who had just had his own interim tag removed, upset Mastroeni’s Colorado Rapids in the two-legged 2016 Western Conference Championship. The Sounders won at home in the first match before going to Commerce City, Colo., and winning again to capture their first Western Conference title and trip to MLS Cup. Mastroeni stayed in charge of Colorado until 2017 before joining the Houston Dynamo as an assistant in 2019, joining RSL as an assistant in 2021 and ultimately running the ship once Freddy Juarez departed for Seattle this summer.
FREDDY JUAREZ VS. HIS FORMER CLUB
Juarez made MLS headlines midseason when he stepped down as RSL’s head coach to join Brian Schmetzer’s staff as an assistant. Juarez had been in the RSL organization since 2014 and the First Team manager since 2019. Salt Lake got the better of their former boss in their first meeting as foes in September, with RSL earning a 1-0 victory. Juarez and the Sounders will look to return the favor in a much more important match on Tuesday.