RSL television and radio analyst Brian Dunseth – the man who scored the team’s first-ever home goal, a game-winner in the 81st minute against rival Colorado back on April 16, 2005 – weighs in on Saturday’s matchup, and the prospects for each team’s long-term success in 2010
Looking forward to Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium; RSL founder Dave Checketts and his new partner, Dell Loy Hansen, will be in the house to raise a championship banner and present the players with their MLS Cup rings in a ceremony starting at 6:30 p.m. My partner David James and I will bring you all the pomp and circumstance on KUSG (over-the-air 2.2, Comcast 111, Dish Network ch. 12) at that time.
Regarding the matchup, success starts for both RSL and Seattle in the midfield, where each team has incredible engines. The Sounders’ Osvaldo Alonso and Brad Evans have spectacular work rates, matched by RSL Captain Kyle Beckerman, Will Johnson and Ned Grabavoy. Whichever team controls the midfield balance – and therefore the tempo of the game – is the first key.
On the back lines, both defenses utilize outside backs to get forward into the attack; Robbie Russell and Chris Wingert are not afraid to get forward one-on-one, while both Leo Gonzalez and James Riley will pick their spots as well. Both sets of backs can handle various types of runs.
The big difference between these teams occurs up front; for Seattle, both Freddys (Ljungberg and Montero) are comfortable stepping back into midfield. For the Champs, Espindola, Saborio and Findley are asked to pressure when the ball is lost and check back, but they stay further up than Seattle’s strikers. Findley is the X-factor for the RSL attack, he can get in behind defenses and pull away.
For Seattle, the pure speed exists on the outside flanks, where Steve Zakuani mirrors Findley’s ability, but from a different position. Last week, the Akron product was up against New York’s Jeremy Hall – himself one of the speedier players in MLS – and was still able to find the ball, take two touches and dribble past the young defender. Zakuani’s performance against RSL’s right-sided defense will be huge for Seattle, whose wing midfielders play similarly to what RSL saw in San Jose with Convey and Alvarez.
These are two teams with the right balance in the squad, both play tight defense, neither gives up a lot of chances – New York scored vs. Seattle last week with a sweet finish after a deflection off a set piece, while RSL has only allowed two penalty-kick goals this season – three minutes apart!
With both teams coming off disappointing results last week, this weekend’s Western Conference match up could be a sneak peek into the future as both teams will be participating in the 2010/11 CONCACAF Champions League as well as battling for home field advantage in the run up to the MLS Playoffs.
Keep an eye on the first 15 minutes as both teams will be looking to set the tone early.
Catch Dunny every Thursday night on “First Kick” with Spencer Checketts at 6:00 p.m. MT on ESPN Radio- KALL 700 Sports in Utah, or on www.KALL700sports.com