Soccer fireworks on tap for Sounders FC in Utah
After a hugely disappointing month of June, the Seattle Sounders are more than eager to start fresh in July. They’d also like to declare their independence from an old nemesis, Real Salt Lake.
Both teams enter a key MLS Western Conference match on the 4th of July evening trying to halt winless streaks. Salt Lake has sputtered with losses in each of its last three outings, while Seattle hasn’t won a league match since early May.
Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid knows history is with his club.
“July has been good to us in the past, and it’s a matter of making it good for us again in 2012,” Schmid said in the Coach’s Corner interview. “I’ve been pleased the way we performed in the last two games, getting the win in the U.S. Open Cup in San Jose. We were a little hard done getting a tie in New England.”
The statistics support Schmid’s optimism. Seattle has the best record of any club in the league from the first of July until the end of the regular schedule. To achieve that again they will need their star players to step up and get some breaks.
Seattle’s goalkeeping core has been bitten by the injury bug again. Andrew Weber hurt his thigh in the New England match and will miss 10 days or longer. Michael Gspurning has started to train again after missing several games with an injured hip.
Bryan Meredith returns to a starting role against Salt Lake, with untested youngster Josh Ford as the backup. Ford was just activated from the disabled list after his own injury issues.
Without saying it publicly, Schmid gave me the impression he has challenged Fredy Montero, Alvaro Fernandez and Mauro Rosales to boost their productivity. Montero missed the last game due to a shove and red-card suspension.
The Sounders’ victory drought started with a 1-nil loss to Real Salt Lake on May 12. While the Sounders outplayed RLS, they gave up an early second-half goal to Fabian Espindola. He gave Seattle’s defense fits in last year’s playoff series too.
“He’s definitely a dangerous guy who’s very active,” Schmid said. “He’s a player who likes to go to the right wing so he can cut the ball in to his left foot. He’s a very tenacious player and somebody we need to be aware of.”
Zach Scott has done a solid job on Espindola in the past, and will likely match up with him most this game. Alvaro Saborio leads RSL in goal scoring and Javier Morales is their leading assist man. Kyle Beckerman is also a threat coming out of midfield.
Kickoff is 7 p.m. Wednesday with Ross Fletcher and Kasey Keller handling play-by-play on 97.3 KIRO FM, the radio home of Sounders FC.