Seattle, WA – Seattle Sounders FC faces playoff elimination when it hosts Real Salt Lake at what is sure to be a cracking atmosphere at CenturyLink Field on Wednesday.
Real Salt Lake dismantled Seattle in the opening leg as Alvaro Saboria bagged a brace en route to a convincing 3-0 win at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday.
It will take a monumental effort from Seattle to overturn the result, needing to win by four goals to advance outright to the Western Conference Final. A win by a three-goal margin will see the teams deadlocked on aggregate, forcing extra time followed potentially by penalty kicks.
The Sounders have participated in five MLS playoff games in club history and for the fourth time, they were held scoreless on the attacking end.
"We're lucky we didn't lose 6-0," said Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid. "We were well-served by losing only 3-0. We played not well and I thought Real Salt Lake played very well. It was a bad time for us to choose to have a bad game."
It was, indeed, a bad game for Seattle. The Sounders failed to record even a single shot on target the entire game.
But getting a clinching result is not out of the question for Seattle, a team quite capable of scoring goals. The Sounders have netted three goals in three of their last six regular season games. They have also scored four goals in a game three separate times this season, the most in MLS.
"We need to score four, it's very simple," Schmid bluntly said. "We can't allow any goals. There's no secret strategy, everybody has to play better soccer then what they played, everyone has to put in a better performance."
Despite seeing his side cruise to a comfortable win on Saturday, Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis now has a team selection predicament ahead of Wednesday's return leg.
First-choice defenders Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers both sustained quadricep injuries during play and are looming question marks ahead of the rematch.
"We're just going to see how deep we are," goalkeeper Nick Rimando said. "Hopefully it's not too bad - this is one of those times where you'd like to have a little more time in between games - but, again, if the worst happens and those guys can't go, we have guys who can do the job."
Role player Chris Schuler and regular right back Chris Wingert finished Saturday's match in the center of defense for Real Salt Lake, filling in for Olave and Borchers. With both players making the trip to Seattle, they may be called upon to play a major role if Olave and Borchers can't suit up.
Real Salt Lake will undoubtedly be buoyed by the resurgence of playmaker Javier Morales in the center of midfield. Morales, after long spell on the sidelines recovering from injury, dictated play on Saturday, pulling the strings from midfield to have a hand in both of Saborio's goals.
"I think it's taken me a long time to come back like normal, but I think [Saturday] I felt very, very good," Morales said. "I'm very happy about that, but more for the team. We played a very good game, and we won so that is the most important thing."
As Morales gradually found time on the pitch late in the season, his traditional midfield partner had been unavailable. With Kyle Beckerman away on national team duty and serving MLS suspensions, he had not been able to partner Morales in midfield since the eighth game of the season.
With both players back together and firing on all cylinders, Real Salt Lake appears to be a strong favorite to advance against a Seattle team needing lots of goals.