Preview: Real Salt Lake Embark On Playoff Campaign Against Formidable Sounders

Nov 22, 2021, 3:17 PM
Photo courtesy: Real Salt Lake...
Photo courtesy: Real Salt Lake

SALT LAKE CITY – Real Salt Lake is ready and poised to give everything they have as they attempt to upset the second-seeded Seattle Sounders this Tuesday evening.

Enough Waiting

It has been a long break between matches following the heroics that unfolded in Kansas City on Decision Day when Damir Kreilach scored the game’s only goal in the final seconds to secure a playoff position for Real Salt Lake. Since then, captain Albert Rusnák has travelled across the world and represented his national team where he scored a brace against Malta while the rest of the team stayed in Utah and rested, recovered, and prepared for Seattle.

But the playing group is finished with waiting around. They are ready to get their playoff campaign started and are eager to take the pitch against former boss Freddy Juarez and Seattle.

The 4-2-3-1

Real Salt Lake will look to replicate its play in a similar fashion to what occurred against Sporting Kansas City. It is likely that Real Salt Lake will embark on a 4-2-3-1 formation and not the 3-5-2 that has been favoured by interim manager Pablo Mastroeni.

The opening 15 minutes of the game will be critical for Real Salt Lake who will look to defend in a compact structure. The longer Real Salt Lake can go without conceding a goal, the more pressure is placed on the Sounders.

RSL Playing Style

Furthermore, Real will look to have composure when in possession. Under Mastroeni’s leadership, RSL has frequently turned the ball over in areas of the pitch that are inexcusable. For Real Salt Lake to have any hope of an upset they must protect the football when in possession. If and when they turn the ball over it must be deep in Seattle’s half, otherwise, the sheer speed and skill of Seattle will crucify RSL on the counter-attack.

Seattle has very few flaws. It can play in a variety of ways. But in an ideal world, they will control the speed and tempo of the game while looking to capitalize on mistakes from their opposition. The faster they can move the football from one end to the other, the better. But if they need to they can also play out of the back and methodically move the football up the pitch and into the back of the net.

Sounders By The Numbers

Raúl Ruidíaz scored 17 goals from 26 games played in 2021. João Paulo Mior leads the Sounders with 11 assists on the season. Between Cristian Roldan, Freddy Montero, Nicolás Lodeiro, Stefan Frei, Jordan Morris, Nouhou Tolo, and Jimmy Medranda, Seattle has talent all over the park.

The health of Lodeiro is still in question. The 32-year-old prolific playmaker underwent a second knee procedure on September 20th after he aggravated the same knee he injured earlier in the season. The second procedure was a right knee arthroscopy and his timeline for a return was never disclosed by the club. He is not currently listed on the injury report.

Tale Of Two Forms

Real Salt Lake concluded the regular season with three wins and three losses. Whereas Seattle limped to the finish line with a final six-game record of three draws and three losses.

Seattle has not won a game since October 9th when it dismantled Vancouver 4-1 while only scoring on five occasions throughout the final six games.

Keep An Eye On

The last time these two teams met was on September 18 when Rio Tinto Stadium welcomed Freddy Juarez back for the first and only time as an opposition. The fixture ended 1-0 when Damir Kreilach headed home the games only goal in the 48th minute from a beautiful ball played by Aaron Herrera.

Throughout the game, however, Herrera got the better of Sounders left-wing back Brad Smith who was ultimately replaced by Jimmy Medranda in the 63rd minute.

With the shape of Real Salt Lake likely staying with the 4-2-3-1, Herrera will not have the freedom to get into the attacking third as he did on September 18 when RSL operated in a 3-5-2. However, it is still something to keep close attention to. If Herrera can find himself in one-on-one positions against Smith he will likely not hesitate and immediately run straight at him in an attempt to beat him off the dribble.

Match Info

Real Salt Lake will next travel to Seattle for a date with Freddy Juarez and the Sounders. The single-elimination game will be a part of the first round of the MLS Playoffs with the winner advancing while the loser is eliminated.

The kick-off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. on November 23rd and will be broadcast via FS1.


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