MLS' Best of the West, Sounders FC and RSL, Ready for Saturday's Encounter
Two points separate the Seattle Sounders FC (8-3-2, 26 points), who sit atop the Western Conference standings, and Real Salt Lake (6-0-6, 24 points), MLS' last unbeaten team. The winner will become the Supporters' Shield leader. A draw keeps Seattle in first place.
Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid and midfielder Brad Evans both commented on RSL' unbeaten record after Thursday's practice.
"Winning the game is most important," Schmid said. "Stopping their streak is part of winning the game."
"I mean streaks, obviously, are meant to be broken," Evans said. "When you're on the other side of that streak, that's how you look at it."
Last week, Seattle earned a hard fought road point in their 2-2 Cascadia Cup. The Utah side played to a scoreless draw against FC Dallas at Rio Tinto Stadium.
RSL won their last two road games by a combined score of 8-4. The Sounders at home have notched a league-high 15 points and are on a four-game winning streak at CenturyLink Field.
Sounders FC and RSL by the numbers
Seattle ranks first in goals, wins and points. RSL sits either second or third in the same categories.
The visitors hold the edge on defense by letting in just over a goal per game, or third in the league. Goalkeeper Stefan Frei and his defenders are 12th by allowing an average of 1.62 goals.
Missing USMNT Players
Both sides have key starters on the 23-man World Cup roster headed to Brazil in June. Seattle's point leader Clint Dempsey and right back De'Andre Yedlin are the two absentees from the Sounders.
RSL is without goalkeeper Nick Rimando and midfielder Kyle Beckerman until the U.S. exits the World Cup. Forward Alvaro Saborio was called up by Costa Rica but has since been ruled out of the World Cup squad due to injury.
Forwards Obafemi Martins, Lamar Neagle, Chad Barrett and Kenny Cooper have more than filled the attacking void created by Dempsey's absence. All four recorded a goal in one of Seattle's last four matches.
Schmid plans to adjust his back four depending on the competition and fitness levels of his defenders. He can call on Dylan Remick, Jalil Anibaba or Brad Evans to replace Yedlin on the right side.
Real Salt Lake takes over first place in the West with a tight win over the Sounders. RSL 2 - 1 Sounders FC.