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● Seattle Sounders beat Colorado Rapids 4-0 in their first game of the season
● Real Salt Lake came from behind to beat Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 last week
● The last time these two sides met at this venue, Real Salt Lake won 2-1
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The resounding 4-0 win on opening day was a much-needed one for Seattle Sounders, who ended their four-game winless run in the MLS. In addition to that, Seattle Sounders had also lost in a friendly against Hammarby and then in the FIFA Club World Cup against Al Ahly SC. In all competitions, they were winless in six before they put that run to bed last week.
Unlike Seattle Sounders, Real Salt Lake made it to the playoffs last season as they finished seventh, only a point clear of Portland Timbers in eighth. Real Salt Lake put resilience on display last week as they came from a goal down to beat Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1. Both goals came in the final quarter of the match.
Both sides have their respective strengths and weaknesses, and this is going to be a tightly-contested match that will be nicked by the Seattle Sounders.
There is a lot of history between the two sides as they have clashed 35 times in the MLS. Real Salt Lake have emerged victorious on 16 occasions, while Seattle Sounders have nabbed a win in 14 encounters.
Only five matches between the two have ended in draws, with the last one coming three years ago. In the last five matches against each other, Real Salt Lake have won four as Seattle Sounders’ last win over Real Salt Lake came in June 2021.
In recent years, the Lumen Field has been a happy hunting ground for Real Salt Lake. However, that was not always the case. Including the two recent Real Salt Lake wins, they have only won five out of 20 games at the venue, out of which only three have ended in draws.
Seattle Sounders have won two MLS titles so far and have finished as runners-up on two occasions. They won in 2016 and finished second-best the following year. Then they were champions again in 2019 before finishing as runners-up again in the next year.
In the 2021 season, the club finished second in the Western Division at the end of the league phase but could not go all the way and win their third title. Last season was a big blow for the Seattle Sounders as they finished 11th.
This season, the two-time champions will be eager to bounce back and make their way up the table to reach the playoffs again. A stellar opening day win against Colorado Rapids has already helped Seattle Sounders state their intent for the season.
The transfer activity has been kept to a bare minimum this season by the Seattle Sounders. They have only made one new signing but ensured it is a major one. The club have reeled in former New York City FC striker Heber on a permanent deal to the team.
Last week, the new signing made his debut as he started the game against Colorado Rapids and also got on the scoresheet in the second half as he scored his new team’s third goal of the match before Jordan Morris wrapped it up.
Heber scored eight goals for New York City FC last season in the MLS. The Brazilian made 29 appearances but was only given nine starts. The 31-year-old does not intend to be a substitute for the rest of his life as he looks to consolidate his starting position at the new club.
Consolidating a spot in the starting eleven will not be an easy task for Heber as he will have to compete with other strikers vying for the same position. Raul Ruidiaz was Seattle Sounders’ leading goal scorer last season with nine goals.
The Peruvian striker did not feature in the last game because he is on the sidelines because of a hamstring injury. Ruidiaz is expected to be back in action towards the end of March, and till then, Heber will have a chance to show everyone why he deserves to keep that striker spot.
Comeback wins are always impressive and doing that on the opening day shows how the squad is not ready to settle for anything less than a win. That mentality is capable of driving a team further up the table throughout the season.
However, Real Salt Lake are not title contenders. They have won the title only once in their history but that came almost 15 years ago. Apart from that, Real Salt Lake are a team that will chase a playoff spot and that will be the case this season as well.
The true test of Real Salt Lake’s resilience will be when they are up against formidable opponents. As of now, their next opponents do look formidable. This game will be a good experience for both teams to understand where they stand.
Right-back Andrew Brody was excellent down the right flank for Real Salt Lake last week as he finished with a decent passing accuracy of 80 percent. The 27-year-old struggles with aerial duels but on the ground, he is solid.
Against Vancouver Whitecaps, Brody won all ground duels he was involved in while making six recoveries and two crucial clearances. The full-back also played eight passes into the final third and created one great opportunity.
Now, against the Seattle Sounders, Brody may not be fit enough to feature as Real Salt Lake try to think of a solution to replace the agile right-back. The American picked up a head injury and is likely to be out for a week.
Both goals that Real Salt Lake scored last week were created from the wings. The first one was created by Maikel Ramirez down the right flank and minutes later, the winner was assisted by Jefferson Savarino.
Savarino also completed the most dribbles in the match as he constantly looked to sneak into the opposition’s penalty area from the left flank. The duo will be expected to do the same in the next match and it will be interesting to see if they can deliver it.
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● Teams: Seattle Sounders vs Real Salt Lake
● Location: Lumen Field
● Time: Saturday, March 4 at 10:30 pm ET
● How to watch: Univision networks TUDN and UniMas, ESPN Deportes, Telemundo and Fox Deportes
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With an interest in strategy and mathematics, applying that to sports writing was the natural progression. A writer at night and the founder of a gaming company, Nikhil’s previous experience includes working with ESPN for five years. His specialization includes soccer, basketball, tennis, and esports betting. Email: [email protected]More info on Nikhil Kalro
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