For the second year in a row, Real Salt Lake will face Seattle Sounders FC in the MLS Cup Western Conference semifinals.
After playing to a 0-0 draw last Thursday, RSL and Seattle remain tied at 56 points with one game remaining. Currently, Seattle holds the tiebreaker and is seeded second in the Western Conference. However, RSL can clinch the second seed with a win and a Seattle draw or loss or a draw and a Seattle loss. If both teams draw, RSL needs to outscore Seattle by at least five goals to clinch the second seed on tiebreakers.
The second seed will host the second home game during the home and home playoff series.
The Western Conference rematch is the latest chapter in a blossoming rivalry between RSL and Seattle.
In 2009, Seattle's first MLS season, the Sounders were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs and had to watch as the eight-seeded RSL, who squeaked into the playoffs on tiebreakers, celebrate winning the MLS Cup at CenturyLink Field, Seattle's home stadium.
In RSL's 2010 home opener, Seattle looked poised to walk away with the win when Álvaro Saborio netted the game-tying goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time to preserve RSL's 12 game, home unbeaten streak.
And who can forget RSL's 3-2 aggregate win over Seattle in last year's conference semifinals? After taking a commanding 3-0 lead in the first game at Rio Tinto, RSL was able to hold on for the win despite a leaky defense that nearly allowed Seattle a second game comeback.
Expect the playoff rematch to be chippy. The teams have faced each other a total of 13 times, 11 regular season and two playoff matches. A total of 47 yellow cards and four red cards have been issued during those meetings averaging almost four cards per game.
RSL is 4-3-4 against Seattle netting 15 goals to Seattle's 11. However, this series may be won or lost based on Saborio's performance. He has scored six of RSL's goals against Seattle, but is also RSL's most carded player when facing the Sounders having received four yellow cards. RSL is 2-1-1 against Seattle when Saborio scores, but is 0-1-2 when he receives a card.
RSL's record unbeaten streak at home — and Seattle's record home attendance — makes home-field advantage all that more desirable for both teams. For the regular season finale, Seattle will face the Los Angeles Galaxy on the road while RSL will face Vancouver at home on October 27.
Ryan Carreon is a web editor for the Deseret News. Send him an email at email@example.com.
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company