Sounders FC

Real Salt Lake real pivotal foe for Seattle

Sounders FC’s first meeting with Real Salt Lake this season proved to be a turning point.

The Sounders hope the rematch today isn’t.

It’s almost hard to remember now, but Seattle limped into Utah on May 28 after a disappointing 1-1-1 homestand that dropped them to 1-2-2 in the month and to 4-4-5 on the season. They entered Rio Tinto Stadium – where no visiting MLS team had won in 29 games – and rode second-half goals by Patrick Ianni and Lamar Neagle to a 2-1 victory that not only snapped RSL’s streak but also seemed to change the course of Seattle’s season.

The Sounders have since gone 9-1-4 in MLS and 15-2-4 overall.

“I know it was a big win against a very, very good team,” Sounders defender James Riley said. “ … To get a win – to break a streak – against that kind of team on their field, and to have (Neagle) come off the bench and get a goal and in the fashion that he did … was a confidence booster.”

Not only did Neagle’s first MLS goal turn around the Sounders’ season, it also seemed to re-energize his career.

Since then, he has added four goals including a hat trick in the Sounders’ last league game, a 6-2 win over Columbus on Aug. 27.

“Once you get that first one out of the way, you don’t have to be as nervous when you go into games and you realize ‘I can score,’” Neagle said.

The Sounders’ continuing surge has carried them to the second-best record in MLS.

While their focus is on catching front-running Los Angeles, other teams have remained stubbornly close behind – including Salt Lake, which is six points behind Seattle, with two fewer games played.

“Obviously they have some games in hand, and by beating us it kind of becomes ‘advantage them,’” Seattle goalkeeper Kasey Keller said. “We’ve got to make sure they don’t get that.”

RSL lost four out of five games in late August, but enters this match coming off back-to-back wins.

BOSS ON DL

The Sounders put reserve goalkeeper Terry Boss on the disabled list Friday, and he will miss the rest of the season.

Boss, 30, suffered a concussion Sept. 2 while playing for the Puerto Rican national team.

Rookie Josh Ford will serve as the club’s No. 2 keeper.

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com twitter/donruiztnt blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer

SOUNDERS GAMEDAY

REAL SALT LAKE (12-7-6; 42 PTS.) AT SOUNDERS FC (13-5-9; 48 PTS.)

1 P.M., CENTURYLINK FIELD

TV: Ch. 5. RADIO: 97.3-FM, 99.3-FM (Spanish).

LEADERS: For RSL – G 7, Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola; A 8, Kyle Beckerman; S 48, Saborio; SOG 24, Espindola; GAA 0.88, Nick Rimando. For Seattle – G 6, Alvaro Fernandez and Fredy Montero; A 9, Mauro Rosales; S 76, Montero; SOG 29, Montero; GAA 1.07, Kasey Keller.

HEAD TO HEAD: Seattle leads 2-1-2, including a 2-1 win May 28 at Salt Lake.

NOTES: Real Salt Lake is six points behind Seattle in the MLS standings but has played two fewer games. … After losing four out of five in late August, RSL has rebounded with back-to-back wins – including 2-1 over Philadelphia last week. … Seattle leads MLS in goals scored (42). Salt Lake is second in goals-against average (0.84), shots on goal (127) and corner kicks (147). … Seattle is 4-0-2 over its last six home league matches, while RSL has one win in its last nine road games. … With a win today, Seattle would match the club record of six straight wins overall. … RSL defender Jamison Olave, the 2010 MLS defender of the year, has moved to the top of the league’s Castrol Index, which attempts to measure a player’s overall impact on a game. … Salt Lake midfielder Javier Morales (ankle) is out. Defender Robbie Russell (back) is questionable. … The Sounders are back in action after a 10-day break. This game begins a stretch of six matches in 18 days. … Sounders Servando Carrasco, Erik Friberg, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Tyson Wahl and Montero all are one caution away from one-game yellow-card suspension. … The referee is Mark Kadlecik. … Miniature U.S. flags will be distributed to fans, and players will wear armbands with a “9/11 Memorial” graphic.

QUOTABLE: “Saborio has been strong for them and … they have a strong midfield that supports him and his movement. They’ve got a good team. They’ve been around the mix (since they won the 2009 MLS Cup).” – Sounders coach Sigi Schmid.

NEXT: The Sounders return to CONCACAF Champions League group play at 7 p.m. Wednesday, visiting CS Herediano in Costa Rica. Seattle’s next MLS regular-season game is one week from today when D.C. United visits.

Don Ruiz, staff writer

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