Three Key Match-Ups: at Real Salt Lake

The Sounders take on Real Salt Lake in a big Western Conference clash. Here's three match-ups to pay attention to.

Sounders FC looks for their first win of the MLS regular season on Saturday and it won’t be an easy task as they take on Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium, where RSL is 49-9-22 all-time in regular-season play.

That meeting between the two sides is always a competitive match, even after the two teams underwent major changes this year.

Eddie and Oba vs. RSL center backs

Will Saturday be the first match that Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins start together up top for Sigi Schmid’s Sounders? If so, they will be quite the handful for the Salt Lake center backs. Jason Kreis has three to choose from in Nat Borchers, Chris Schuler and Kwame Watson-Siriboe.

Not many center back pairs could keep up with the speed of Martins and Johnson, and with Borchers just returning from off-season surgery and Schuler and Watson-Siriboe not known for being fleet of foot it would set-up well for Seattle's forward tandem.

Zakuani vs. Beltran

Tony Beltran just got back from US National Team duty and he will be greeted with the speedy Steve Zakuani. Beltran didn’t play in either World Cup qualifying match for the US against Costa Rica and Mexico, so is either rested or rusty, depending on your perspective.

It should be a matchup to watch, as Zakuani has provided incredible creative play for the Sounders through the first three regular-season matches and Beltran is among the better right backs in the league.

Midfield vs. Midfield

The Sounders and Real Salt Lake have two of the best midfields in MLS, starting with their holding midfielders Osvaldo Alonso and Kyle Beckerman. What makes this matchup particularly interesting is the different philosophies being employed. While the Sounders tend to rely on the wide midfielders for creating the attack, RSL’s diamond-shaped midfield clogs up the middle of the field.

This week Seattle assistant coach Brian Schmetzer pointed out to the media the 4v2 proposition that comes in the middle of midfield when you face a team playing in a diamond. To succeed, Seattle will need to force that midfield to play to their width to open up channels in the middle of the field while also creating width in the attack with the outside backs.