The Seattle Sounders begin their postseason quest for yet more MLS riches today as they play host to Real Salt Lake at Lumen Field (10.30pm ET Tuesday; Live on TV: FS1, Fox Deportes). Can the playoff regulars do the business again or will there be an upset Emerald City? Hopefully this preview, with its predictions and betting picks, can answer that question.
The Sounders were always going to make the postseason. As is often the case, they set the pace in the west and hovered around top spot for the entirety of the campaign. They did eventually lose out to the Colorado Rapids, who claimed the Western Conference regular-season title, though that is unlikely to bother Brian Schmetzer’s men too much when they are poised for another crack at MLS Cup glory. The Seattle Sounders have graced four of the last five MLS Cup Finals with their presence.
The hosts don’t exactly come into this fixture in outstanding form, failing to win any of their final six, three of which they lost. That is probably because their job was done from some way out, meaning that they could save themselves for the playoffs.
As for the visitors, well, Real Salt Lake sneaked into the playoffs and they did so thanks to a final day win away against Sporting Kansas City, who finished the regular season just two points behind Seattle. So the visitors will fancy themselves to make some headway this evening, you can be sure of that. Prior to their win against SKC, RSL had lost two on the bounce, but that probably won’t worry the visitors, who as mentioned in this preview above, will have gained no shortage of confidence from beating one of the best teams in the division to reach the postseason.
Up and down at home
Typically, the Sounders are strong at home, and they were excellent during the first half of the campaign, going eight games unbeaten at Lumen Field, five of which they won, though the wheels came off the Seattle vehicle somewhat during the latter part of the campaign. Between late July and late August, the two-time MLS Cup winners went four home games without picking up a win. They then found their feet again, winning three on the bounce, before failing to win their last two in front of a home crowd.
Not the best on the road
While the Sounders were a little up and down at home during the second half of the season, the Salt Lake were reasonably poor on the road throughout the campaign, winning sporadically and losing with regularity. Between early August and mid-September, RSL lost five straight away from home, while they also lost three of their last five away from the comforts of home. Such a record isn’t exactly inspiring, even if they did win two straight to close out their regular-season road schedule. It’s worrying, at least it is if you’re affiliated with RSL, that today’s road team conceded the second-most goals away from home in the Western Conference this season.
Locked together in the head-to-head
This will be the third time that Seattle and RSL have met on the soccer field this season and they are currently tied at one victory each. First up, back in June, the Sounders won at this venue, winning by two goals to one, but on the overall balance of play, their victory could have been by a greater margin.
Real Salt Lake took revenge in September, though, winning by a goal to nil on their own patch. On that occasion, Schmetzer’s men were second best as they struggled to impose themselves as usual, though it would probably be unfair to judge them too harshly on that evidence. After all, this fixture is in Seattle, and on home soil the Sounders are no mugs, especially when it comes to the cut and thrust of knockout soccer in the postseason.
Hosts have too much firepower
The visitors will fancy themselves to make some sort of headway, but it’s difficult to envisage them having the defensive security to get a positive result. The hosts aren’t infallible at the back, but when push comes to shove, it is the visitors who have more frailties in that area.
At the current odds, the bet that stands out is ‘Seattle to Win & Both Teams to Score’. Having conceded in each of their final three home games, the Sounders don’t look too likely to keep RSL at bay. With the likes of Raul Ruidiaz and Fredy Montero, who netted 24 times between them during regular season play, in their forward line, they do have what it takes to overpower the visitors. RSL had an average goal difference of -0.47 on the road during the regular campaign, as well as an average expected goal difference -0.32, compared to Seattle’s average goal difference of +0.76 and average expected goal difference of +0.49 at home.
More to come from Montero
Raul Ruidiaz once again dominates the anytime scorer betting lines and it’s easy to see why, but at slightly bigger odds, Fredy Montero catches the eye. The veteran Colombian regained his scoring touch during the final regular-season fixture, scoring away at Vancouver, while his overall numbers are pleasing.
An average of 0.36 expected goals per 90 minutes point towards his threat, while an average of 3.23 shots per 90 minutes in a Sounders jersey reflects his directness. Against an RSL backline that often struggles on the road, should he get the nod to start, Montero is worth supporting to find the net.
So take a look at these Sounders vs RSL predictions and betting picks for this preview: