The Seattle Sounders are visiting Austin FC on Thursday (6:30 p.m. PT; ESPN, 950 KJR AM, El Rey Rey 1360 AM) in their second matchup of the 2021 MLS season. Here are three matchups to watch:
Raúl Ruidíaz vs. Brad Stuver
OK, so Ruidíaz won’t be matching up with Stuver directly per se, but the Peruvian will face the best goalkeeper statistically in the league this season. Stuver, who kept a clean sheet in Seattle in May, leads MLS goalkeepers with 4.9 Saves Above Expectation, meaning he has erased nearly five expected goals from opponents. Ruidíaz, on the other hand, comes in tied for the Golden Boot lead with 10 goals in 14 matches.
Fredy Montero vs. Alex Ring
Playing alongside Ruidíaz, Montero much prefers to drop deeper into the half-spaces and be on the ball to facilitate, especially in the absence of Nicolás Lodeiro. He was brilliant doing that in a win over the Houston Dynamo two weeks ago, and if he can channel some of that magic, the Sounders should have a legitimate chance to take three points in Texas. The man tasked with stopping him will be Ring, the former Finnish international and NYCFC captain who has been one of MLS’ best defensive midfielders over the past five years.
Yeimar vs. Cecilio Domínguez
With Xavier Arreaga suspended because of yellow-card accumulation, Yeimar will need to control Seattle’s back line. New Austin signing Moussa Djitté may make his debut, but Head Coach Josh Wolff will likely continue rolling with Domínguez, who is primarily a winger, as a False 9. Austin has only generated 10 goals in 13 matches this season, and the Sounders will be eager to churn out another clean sheet.