Real Salt Lake and the Seattle Sounders will face off in the Conference Semifinals of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.
Seattle is coming off one of the most exciting MLS playoff games in league history, as they took down FC Dallas 4-3 on Sunday. The match took 120 minutes to finally decide the outcome, as we needed extra time when neither side would budge in regulation. Raúl Ruidíaz had the only non Morris goal for Seattle, opening up the score book in the 18th. Reggie Cannon 39′, Matt Hedges 64′ and Bryan Acosta 82′ had the three goals for FC Dallas. It was finally ended when Jordan Morris headed in a shot deflection for his 3rd goal of the match. Jordan’s three goals (22′,74′,113′), earned him the hat trick and pushed Seattle through to the semis.
Real Salt Lake and Portland had an exciting game in their own right. Damir Kreilach gave RSL the early lead in the 28th minute when he headed in a cross that set him up beautifly. Portland would respond with their own header just two minutes into the second half. Sebastian Blanco whipped a corner into the box, finding the head of Dairon Asprilla who rose above everyone else for the equalizer. We would stand pat at 1-1 until the 87th. Jefferson Savarino slid in the winner after Portland wasn’t able to clear a pass rolling at the top of the box. Savarino punched RSL’s flight to the Emerald City.
Real Salt Lake and Seattle met twice in the regular season, with both teams winning on their home pitch. Seattle won back in April, thanks to a lone Nicolás Lodeiro goal at CenturyLink Field. RSL returned the favor in August, dismantling the Sounders defense to the tune of a 3-0 result at Rio Tinto. Good news for Seattle, this match will be played on their home turf.
The key to this matchup is pretty clear, get the lead early. Seattle can ill afford to be behind early in the match, even with being at home. This match will be a quick turn around for both sides, but the Sounders logged more miles on their bodies in the opening round. Fatigue may be an issue for the rave green, so having to play catch up surly wouldn’t be in their favor. On the other hand, CenturyLink Field is one of the toughest places to play in the MLS. The longer it takes RSL to get into the game, the louder and more on top of you the crowd will feel.
Seattle’s defense, which has been hit and miss all season, has been known to make one or two costly mistakes a game. Real will need to capitalize on those mistakes in order to move on. The Sounders did have two shutouts to end the regular season before giving up three to Dallas in round 1. They will need avoid another shootout if they want a chance at the Western Conference Final.
I believe the Sounders will move on in a 2-1 result on Wednesday. In typical Sounders fashion however, I do think it will come down the final minutes of the match. Nicolás Lodeiro will be the hero and score the game winner, moving them on to the Conference Final.