MLS: Spotlight falls on Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake
The play-offs are a mere four games away and the fight for the top five spots in the Eastern and Western Conference are hotting up with Sporting KC, Chicago Fire, NY Red Bulls, DC United and Houston Dynamo currently leading the way in the East, and San Jose Earthquakes, LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps top five in the West.
Of course positions still matter as the top seeded teams face a slightly easier path to glory, which will culminate on December 1 at the home field of the finalist with the superior regular season record.
Right now the favorites have to be Sporting KC and San Jose Earthquakes - two surprise packages that boast the talents of US internationals Teal Bunbury and Chris Wondolowski, of whom have scored the majority of their teams goals this season. However, with Bunbury suffering a torn ACL and the revamped LA Galaxy breathing down SJ Earthquakes’ necks, anything is possible between now and the end of October.
As a Sounders fanatic I am a partial biased, but will still attempt a degree of journalistic objectivity as I predict the two finalists. Here goes:
Okay, so that didn’t last long but with the recent acquisition of former German international Christian Tiffert from Stuttgart and with Steve Zakuani back to full fitness the Sounders perhaps have the most talented all round squad in the MLS, with possible exception of the Galaxy. Couple that with the fact that they have reached the Open Cup in the past four years - winning three of them and you have a team with big-match experience.
Fredy Montero is free scoring right now and arguably in the form of his life, “Ossie” Alonso will surely go onto bigger things (as sad as it’ll be to see him go) and Eddie Johnson is finally showing some consistency after a stop-start career. They also have the talent of Mauro Rosales, who they missed dearly in last season’s play-offs.
Real Salt Lake
I hate to say it (mostly because they eliminated Seattle last time out) but RSL are a tough outfit to crack; sort of like the Everton of the MLS, well-organised, tough tackling and with game changers such as Fabian Espindola (who has amazingly never been capped by Argentina), man-mountain Kyle Beckerman at the back, Canadian Will Johnson and the delightfully-named Jonny Steele.
Nick Rimando is still going strong between the sticks at 33 and rarely commits errors. Jason Kreis is an RSL legend and the adoration of the Lakers’ faithful ensures that they rarely lose at home - this is a major advantage going into the play-offs. Also, look out for number 10 Alvaro Saborio, a recipient of the MLS Newcomer of the year in 2010 who should return from a shoulder injury in time to lead the line for the unfashionable side.
Article by Sarshar Hosseinnia