Sounders FC is set to host the New York Red Bulls, who are struggling as of late after starting the season as one of the hottest teams in MLS. The Red Bulls haven’t scored in their last two matches, a 2-0 defeat to the Philadelphia Union and a scoreless draw with FC Dallas.
The Rave Green, meanwhile, sits atop the Supporters’ Shield standings having won five of its last seven games. Here are three critical matchups in Sunday’s contest at CenturyLink Field.
Brad Evans vs. Bradley Wright-Phillips
Those last two results were the only two games the Red Bulls have been shut out this entire season. Their scoring drought comes at an inopportune time heading into a matchup with Seattle, as the Sounders currently lead MLS in fewest goals allowed (nine) and total shutouts (seven). Evans has played every minute of the season at centerback and just reached 150 regular-season appearances for the Rave Green. His main task in Sunday’s game is shutting down Wright-Phillips, who earned a Designated Player contract with New York by scoring 27 goals in 2014, which tied the MLS single-season record.
Marco Pappa vs. Kemar Lawrence
Speaking of scoring goals…Pappa found the back of the net for the first time this season on Wednesday, netting the game-winner against Colorado on a curling strike with his right foot. Pappa played well throughout the win over the Rapids, creating chances for teammates and nearly scoring on another long-distance attempt in the second half. Sunday afternoon, the veteran midfielder will likely be matched up with an inexperienced but strong left back in Lawrence. The 22-year-old has started almost every game this year but could be limited against Seattle by the hamstring injury he suffered last weekend.
Obafemi Martins vs. Luis Robles
Robles is the only MLS goalkeeper to have played every minute of action since the start of the 2013 season. He’s been with the Red Bulls since 2012, amassing 36 wins in his 83 appearances. This season Robles has very respectable numbers, owning a 1.00 goals against average (tied for sixth in MLS) and four victories (also tied for sixth). He could be heavily tested on Sunday, as New York has a depleted backline and Martins is healthy again after missing two matches. The reigning MVP runner-up will be eager to score having not done so in nearly a month.