Real Salt Lake and Seattle Sounders FC are limping into their Western Conference semifinal rematch, both figuratively and literally.
Seattle suffered perhaps the biggest blow, possibly losing Striker Eddie Johnson, who went down in the regular season finale against the Los Angeles Galaxy with an adductor strain. Johnson, who scored 14 goals for the Sounders this season, is listed as questionable, although Seattle coach Sigi Schmid seemed to hint that Johnson might sit out the first match in order to be ready for the second.
"There's an outside chance on Friday, and for sure the second game shouldn't be a problem," Schmid told MLSsoccer.com.
RSL has injury concerns of its own. Defender Chris Schuler, who suffered a quad injury, is listed as questionable. Starting midfielder Ned Grabavoy and starting defenders Jamison Olave and Nate Borches are listed as probable but may not be at 100 percent. Striker Paulo Junior, who suffered a foot contusion, is also listed as probable.
Both sides finished the regular season in lackluster fashion. RSL, which only scored two goals in October, had back-to-back draws against the Sounders and the Vancouver Whitecaps FC and have not scored in their last 331 competitive minutes.
"Literally, I think that is just six inches this way or that way with some of the passes, or the final touches, or somebody just calms down to make a little bit better decision when on the attacking third," RSL head coach Jason Kreis said.
The Sounders controlled their playoff destiny going into their final match, but subsequently lost to the Galaxy, allowing RSL to clinch a higher seed and giving up home-field advantage in the process.
With both teams dealing with injuries up front and on the back line, solid midfield play could prove to be the difference maker.
Schmid recently revealed in an interview with ESPN 700 Salt Lake City that he tried to trade for midfielder Kyle Beckermann when Schmid was coaching the Columbus Crew and was disappointed when RSL made the Colorado Rapids a better deal.
"You could tell what kind of player he was going to be, even back then," Schmid said in the interview.
Seattle midfielder Mauro Rosales missed the conference semifinals last year through injury, but he is expected to start at midfield or possibly move forward to fill in for Johnson.
The game will be broadcast tonight on NBC Sports at 7 p.m. PDT from Century Link Field in Seattle, Wash. The second leg is set to be played Nov. 8 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy.
Ryan Carreon is a web editor for the Deseret News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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