Sounders FC is preparing for its regular-season finale against Real Salt Lake at CenturyLink Field on Sunday (4 p.m. PT; JoeTv/KIRO Radio 97.3 FM/El Rey 1360 AM). RSL has already been eliminated from playoff contention, while the Rave Green still control their own destiny.
Here are three positional battles that could be crucial to Sunday’s match.
Gonzalo Pineda vs. RSL midfield
The RSL lineup could look much different on Sunday than in recent games. For one, star defensive midfielder Kyle Beckerman is suspended for yellow-card accumulation, leaving it up to Luke Mulholland and company to slow down the Sounders in the midfield. Beckerman’s absence should open up some space for Pineda, who has started five straight games in the midfield after being used as a reserve for most of the summer. Pineda scored against RSL last season, converting a penalty kick in Seattle’s 4-0 win at CenturyLink Field.
Osvaldo Alonso vs. Javier Morales
It’s unclear whether Morales will play on Sunday, as the Argentine midfielder went 90 minutes in RSL’s CONCACAF Champions League game on Tuesday after playing the full 90 in MLS action three days earlier. The team’s leader in both goals (eight) and assists (11) this year, Morales netted the opening goal in RSL’s 2-0 win over Seattle a couple months ago. Alonso, who didn’t play in that game due to injury, is now healthy and remains one of the toughest players in the league to battle in the midfield.
Marco Pappa vs. Nick Rimando
You might remember that Pappa played a pretty significant role in last year’s season finale, scoring both goals in the Supporters’ Shield-clinching 2-0 win over the LA Galaxy. Pappa came off the bench in that game, and he could do so again on Sunday, as the Guatemalan playmaker is coming off a minor injury suffered while on international duty last week. The Sounders are 6-0-0 this season when Pappa scores a goal, and on Sunday he’ll attempt to put one past a perennial All-Star goalkeeper in Rimando.