MLS Preview and Prediction: Real Salt Lake vs Seattle Sounders

Competition: Major League Soccer – Real Salt Lake vs. Seattle Sounders

Venue: Rio Tinto Stadium – Saturday, August 22 – 22:00 ET (03:00 BST)

Match Odds: Real Salt Lake 6/5 – Draw 23/10 – Seattle Sounders 9/4

Match Preview

Real Salt Lake welcome Seattle Sounders to Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night with both teams fighting for the same place in the Western Conference playoffs.

And seeing as Real Salt Lake have won their last three matches against Seattle in all competitions, there is an added incentive for both sides to go for all three points in what could be a pivotal fixture. Seattle will want to end that run, while Real Salt Lake will look to extend it to four games.

However, at the moment, Real Salt Lake remain six points off the Sounders in the final playoff slot with only nine games remaining and their chances of making the postseason look slim after a tough season.

Real Salt Lake’s record in MLS: P25 – W7 – D8 – L10

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Seattle haven’t had the best of years either and they’ve been dreadful recently. But they did pick up a valuable three points last weekend when they dispatched Orlando City 4-0 at home, with new signings Roman Torres and Nelson Valdez impressing.

They have however, lost eight of their last ten in Major League Soccer and their playoff place is in jeopardy because of this form.

The main reason they have been struggling is down to the absence of star strikers Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins. But with Obafemi Martins returning with a brace last weekend, their form may be about to pick up going into the final stretch of the season.

Seattle Sounders’ record in MLS: P25 – W11 – D2 – L12

Seattle Sounders vs Orlando City

This will be the first meeting between the two this season, with a return fixture at CenturyLink Field coming on the final day of the 2015 regular season.

Real Salt Lake have won each of the last three games at home, but did lose the most recent meeting 3-2 in Seattle last September.

Team News

Real Salt Lake have three players doubtful for the clash with Jordan Allen, Chris Schuler and Joao Plata all carrying injuries.

Seattle Sounders are still without Marco Pappa through the MLS SABH Program. Andres Correa, Andy Craven and Damion Lowe are all out injured. Osvaldo Alonso, Chad Barrett, Leonardo Gonzalez and Clint Dempsey are all doubts. Obafemi Martins should continue in attack with new partner Nelson Valdez.

Key Points

Real Salt Lake’s last five in MLS: W/W/L/L/L

Seattle Sounders’ last five in MLS: L/L/L/L/W

Key Stat: Seattle have lost their last six away matches in MLS. Homesick.

Key Player: Obafemi Martins – The Nigerian striker returned in Seattle’s 4-0 win over Orlando City and provides some much needed firepower to the Seattle attack. Expect him to be dangerous throughout.

Obafemi Martins Seattle Sounders

Score Prediction

Real Salt Lake 1-2 Seattle Sounders – Following the return of Obafemi Martins and Real Salt Lake’s recent poor form, we see Seattle just shaving the win in what will be a tight game due to its importance for both sides.

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Could this Chelsea superstar be set for HUGE move to Real Madrid?

Zinedine Zidane has sparked up speculation of a Real Madrid move for Chelsea‘s key player, Eden Hazard, after his comments about the influential playmaker with FIFA.com.

Hazard, a nominee for PFA Player of the Year, scored his 18th goal of the season in his side’s 1-0 win against Manchester United last weekend and Zidane thinks he is largely to thank for Chelsea topping the table.

“I like the way he carries himself, that decisive streak in him and the fact that he’s improving every year,” the Real Madrid B team coach said.

“He can still get better too, and I think he’s a big reason why Chelsea are on top of the table.”

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The 24-year-old winger signed a contract extension with the club until 2021 just a couple of months ago, making a move away seem highly unlikely, but when Real Madrid come calling it is tempting for any player.

Zidane regards Hazard as one of the best in the world and spoke of him in the same league sentence as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

“There are players I keep an eye on and who I like a lot, like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

“They’re fantastic players, but I like Eden Hazard a lot too. I enjoy everything he does on the pitch.”

Zidane’s comments could be an indication that Real could make a move for the Belgian superstar this summer. His praise may be an early sign of luring Hazard away from Chelsea.

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Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo are two of the world’s best wingers and a move for the Blues star would not be made unless one of them were to leave the club.

Hazard will be under the spotlight again this weekend as Chelsea face Arsenal on Sunday. A win at The Emirates will mean they are just three points away from the Premier League title.

Will Real Madrid make a move for Eden Hazard this summer?

How will Sebastian Velasquez fit in at New York City?

New York City have acquired the services of Colombian midfielder Sebastian Velasquez from Real Salt Lake and he will now be reunited with former manager Jason Kreis.

Kreis left Real Salt Lake at the end of the 2013 campaign but has taken on the role of manager at New York City ahead of their first season.

Velasquez has been used sporadically at Real Salt Lake since his maiden season as a rookie in 2012, so it’s not a major surprise that he’s now moved on.

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However, the 23-year-old saw most of his game time when Kreis was at the club in 2013, so it would appear that the boss is a fan of the young midfielder. He made 24 appearances under Kreis compared to just 10 appearances in 2014.

It’s been a bit of a waiting game for Velasquez, but what better way to start fresh than with a move to a brand new club where he will be hoping to fully prove himself and gain regular first-team action.

Velasquez stats

The Colombian possesses natural ability, great technical skill and can be used as a striker, but more commonly he’s deployed as a winger.

The move to New York presents a great opportunity for Velasquez to cement his place as a first-team player as competition for places will be sky-high and nothing will be guaranteed for anyone in the first few months as they try to work out their best starting XI.

Will Sebastian Velasquez be a success at New York City?

2014 MLS Season Review: Real Salt Lake

Western Conference Final Position: 3rd

Western Conference Playoffs: Semi-Final

Review

Real Salt Lake‘s capitulation in what turned out to be their last game of the season when they lost 5-0 at LA Galaxy was both inexcusable and inexplicable, but one poor game should not overshadow what was – on the whole – a brilliant season.

They made the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season and also enjoyed great form at home winning 11 games and suffering just one defeat. Only LA Galaxy and FC Dallas fared better on home soil in the 2014 MLS season.

Best Moment

The 12-game unbeaten run at the beginning of the season set the tone for a successful campaign and it shouldn’t be underestimated as to how hard it is to maintain that kind of form.

Worst Moment

An obvious choice, but the 5-0 defeat against LA Galaxy in the playoff semi-final will be a painful final memory for 2014 and one they’ll want to forget as soon as possible.

Player of the Year

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Javier Morales was a joy to watch and was truly inspirational for his side. Picking up nine goals and 12 assists from midfield makes it hard to look any further, although Kyle Beckerman deserves a special mention for another great season at the heart of the team.

Biggest Win

Real Salt Lake 5-1 Colorado Rapids (September 20 2014)

Biggest Defeat

Regular season: Seattle Sounders 4-0 Real Salt Lake (May 31 2014)

Including playoffs: LA Galaxy 5-0 Real Salt Lake (November 9 2014)

What to improve for the 2015 season…

It’s hard to pinpoint any areas that specifically need improving for a side that are so consistent, but one disappointment for RSL would be their form on the road. They only managed to pick up four wins on their travels and if they could improve that number next season and maintain their strong home form, then they would be serious contenders for the Supporters’ Shield title in 2015.

Playoff Preview and Prediction: LA Galaxy vs Real Salt Lake

LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake meet again in the reverse leg of their Western Conference playoff semi-final at the StubHub Center on Sunday.

This second leg is so delicately poised after a hard-fought goalless draw in the blustery wind at the Rio Tinto Stadium last weekend, much to the credit of the Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo who kept them in it.

The onus will very much be on LA Galaxy to produce after they’ve now gone four games without a win if you include the three games at the end of the regular season and have hit a stale run of form at the worst possible time.

The Galaxy have drawn two and lost two of the last four and it equals their worst run of form since the turn of April in to May when they went on a four game winless streak, also recording two draws and two defeats.

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[Jaime Penedo kept his side in it last time out]

LA will be looking to their strong home form and desperately hoping that it’s going to come up trumps for them once again.

With just one home defeat in the entire regular season, they will take some confidence from that, but they need to win this game or they risk being eliminated on away goals.

LA Galaxy’s home form: Played 17 – Won 12 – Drawn 4 – Lost 1

Real Salt Lake will come away from the first-leg with mixed emotions after they spurned the opportunity to take a lead with them to LA.

They dominated the majority of their home game but couldn’t capitalise on it and it may come back to haunt them.

However, a 0-0 draw at home is never a bad result in the first-leg as they know that a score draw sees them through on the away goal rule.

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[Main man: Joao Plata has had a great season for RSL]

They haven’t won on the road for six games since a 1-0 win in Colorado at the beginning of August, so they’ll be thankful that a draw could be enough to see them home.

Real Salt Lake’s away form: Played 17 – Won 4 – Drawn 6 – Lost 7

With the game on such a knife edge, it promises excitement and drama, especially as the newly introduced away goals rule may well play a crucial role in the final outcome.

Many will be expecting another tightly contested game and it could take a moment of magic or a moment of madness from someone to turn the tide in favour of either side.

Extra-time and penalties are looming if we see a repeat result of last weekend’s game, so can either side take the initiative?

Key Player: Landon Donovan – he will be desperate to ensure that this isn’t his last ever game for LA Galaxy and there isn’t a better moment for him to shine.

Key Stat: These two sides have only produced four goals in their last four meetings so we expect another cagey affair.

LA Galaxy’s last five: W/L/D/L/D

Real Salt Lake’s last five: L/W/D/W/D

Prediction: LA Galaxy 1 – 1 Real Salt Lake – The Galaxy to suffer the pain of an away goals defeat for the first time in Major League Soccer.

Playoff Preview and Prediction: Real Salt Lake vs LA Galaxy

Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy will meet in a Western Conference heavyweight clash at the Rio Tinto Stadium in their playoff semi-final first leg on Saturday night.

Both sides share a vast experience of competing in the MLS Cup, so they’re certainly no strangers to the responsibility and pressure that comes with playoff matches.

Real Salt Lake were runners-up in the final last year following a penalty shootout defeat to Sporting Kansas City after they had tied the game 1-1 and have qualified for the MLS Cup playoffs every season since 2008.

They won the competition in 2009 when they beat LA Galaxy on penalties – their only MLS Cup title to date.

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Real Salt Lake will look to their home advantage to try and get themselves ahead in this tie as their form at the Rio Tinto Stadium has been excellent this year, with 11 wins and just the one defeat.

Real Salt Lake’s home form: Played 17 – Won 11 – Drawn 5 – Lost 1

LA Galaxy are the joint most successful team in the history of the MLS Cup alongside DC United with both sides having won four titles.

However, the Galaxy were dumped out of the competition at this stage last year by the same opponents, losing 2-1 on aggregate, so they will be looking to avoid a repeat performance.

They will also have to recover from their Supporters’ Shield disappointment after their 2-0 defeat against Seattle Sounders in the last game of the season saw them finish in second place, while the Sounders lifted the title.

They’ve struggled for consistency away from home and their last win on the road was a 3-0 win at Chivas USA on September 1, so the key will be to keep it tight on Saturday night.

LA Galaxy’s away form: Played 17 – Won 5 – Drawn 6 – Lost 6

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It’s crucial to still be alive in the tie when the second leg comes around, so neither side will want to hand the initiative to the opposition, so this should make for a tense but entertaining affair.

Key Player: Alvaro Saborio – Real Salt Lake’s Costa-Rican forward has been in fine form this season, having scored 8 goals from just 13 starts. He boasts the best goals-per-game ratio for the home side and if he plays a part, he could make the difference.

Key Stat: LA Galaxy have faced Real Salt Lake twice before in the MLS Cup and have been on the losing end both times:

  • 2013 – Western Conference semi-final – Real Salt Lake 2-1 LA Galaxy (aggregate score)
  • 2009 – MLS Cup Final – Real Salt Lake 1-1 LA Galaxy (Real Salt Lake won 5-4 on penalties)

Real Salt Lake’s last five: L/L/W/D/W

LA Galaxy’s last five: W/W/L/D/L

Prediction: Real Salt Lake 1 – 1 LA Galaxy