Friday night November 2, 2012 at 8:00PM RSL will set out on their quest to lay claim to the 2012 MLS Cup. The Claret-and-Cobalt will meet a familiar foe, The Seattle Sounders, on the road at CenturyLink Field for the first leg of the home-and-away Western Conference Semifinals.
The battlegrounds for the affair are a familiar setting, as the two sides faced off in the same semifinal fixtures just a year ago as they pursued their individual runs at the title. The playoff seeding this year vs. last is just the opposite. RSL finished the 2012 MLS regular season at the #2 seed in the Western Conference with 57 points. Seattle enters the ring as the #3 seed just one point behind RSL with 56 points. In last years Western Conference Semifinals RSL was the #3 seed and Seattle was #2. RSL was able to pull off an upset victory in the semifinals with an aggregate score line in the home-and-away series of 3 – 2.
The 2012 MLS regular season was a season of records for RSL, finishing the season with the most points in club history (57), the most wins (17), and the most goals (46), surpassing previous records from the 2010 MLS season. Despite some periods of roller-coaster emotions and results the numbers show progress for the club.
Real Salt Lake enters the semifinals following nearly two months of positive results for the club, having been unbeaten in their last 7 matches and 6-1-4 in the last 11 across all competitions. However, ReAL has also been scoreless in their last 3 matches. To best the threatening Sounders, RSL will have to find a way to rediscover their offensive creation and bury their shots on goal.
With several key players on the mend it would appear that RSL will be able to start their preferred first team against Seattle on Friday night. RSL currently boasts the most tenured core in the MLS and perhaps a starting 11 lineup with more post-season experience than any other team in the league. 2012 being their 5th consecutive MLS playoff appearance, the longest streak in the MLS. This will possibly be the last run for some of our veterans at another title and there is no doubt they will fight to the last breath to attain their goal.
While ReAL has experience on their side and appears to be poised as a favorite to advance to the Western Conference Championship, Seattle is certainly a formidable foe. The rivalry between the two teams has intensified in recent years and bad blood abounds. There is no doubt Seattle will seek retribution against the Utah side for having eliminated them from title contention last season.
Real Salt Lake completely dominated and decimated Seattle at home in the first leg of the semifinal last season, winning 3 – 0. However, at their home in the second leg, Seattle were absolutely voracious in their attack, pinning ReAL in their defensive third for the majority of 90 minutes and winning that match 2 – 0. It was an awkward and unfamiliar display from RSL who appeared completely dumbfounded at the constant offensive barrage from Seattle. It was conceivably one of the most nerve-racking stressful matches I have ever watched.
There is little doubt that the match up will likely be one of the most entertaining in the MLS post-season. It is also probable we will see some of the best soccer in the post season played in this semifinal.
As of today Seattle’s star goal-scoring striker Eddie Johnson is still listed as questionable for tomorrow’s match, while former RSL draft pick Andy Rose is listed as probable.
Defender Chris Schuler is listed as questionable for Real Salt Lake; however, key cogs in the RSL first team, Nat Borchers, Jamison Olave and Ned Grabavoy are all listed as probable for the match.
Given this news I predict a starting 11 of: GK Nick Rimando, DF Tony Beltran, DF Jamison Olave, DF Nat Borchers, DF Chris Wingert, MF Kyle Beckerman, MF Ned Grabavoy, MF Luis Gil, MF Javier Morales, FW Alvaro Saborio and FW Fabian Espindola.
As for a score line prediction for the match, that is a hard one to call. I think we may see a draw or a one point win for either side.
Can tomorrow night come soon enough! If you did not make the trip to Seattle for the match tune into NBC Sports at 8:00PM to support our RSL boys! Lets go ReAL! Time to reclaim our Cup! Believe!
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