SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake heads into Seattle on Friday night determined for a different outcome than the last time they visited the Sounders, a 4-0 loss back on May 31.
And RSL knows exactly it wants to do — keep Seattle's Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins in check.
“Arguably the best combination in the league,” RSL defender Tony Beltran told reporters. “They’re on TV every week, so it’s hard to ignore.”
And they're on TV again this week; the RSL-Seattle game is on NBCSN at 8:30 p.m. MT.
It's not just that Dempsey and Martins are so talented individually, “I think it’s their chemistry,” RSL Coach Jeff Cassar told reporters. “Their movement off the ball is what is huge. They know what each other are going to do.”
To date, Dempsey has 11 goals and six assists in 18 games; Martins has 12 goals and nine assists in 23 games. They each have as many or more goals as RSL's leading scorer, Joao Plata, who has 11 goals and five assists in 20 games.
“They’re incredible,” Cassar said. “They’re doing very well and they’re having a lot of success.
“I think Martins is arguably have an MVP-type season. I think together, they’re just a very dangerous duo.”
It's the kind of danger RSL didn't deal well with back in May. They did beat the Sounders 2-1 in Utah on Aug. 16, although Martins didn't play in that match.
“That makes it difficult,” Beltran said. “They dip into the midfield and pick up the ball, go to the side and make a lot of runs in behind, so we just have to stay organized.”
RSL will need “a lot of communication between the backs and our midfielders, putting them in good spots and passing guys on so when they come back to get the ball, they don’t have space,” Beltran continued. “It’s about being switched on and Dallas was good preparation because they kind of play similarly in the fact that you have to be really aware of where they are on the counterattack.”
Cassar said his team saw that in forwards Plata and Alvaro Saborio at the beginning of the year, before Saborio went down to injury in May. Both are available for Friday's game — the first time that's happened in four months.
“We’re still trying to find that combination of forwards to get that chemistry,” he said. “But really, it’s their chemistry. And how you beat that is make sure you’re good on the ball, not give up the ball in dangerous areas so they can find one pass and find those players in dangerous areas.”
RSL isn't shrinking from the challenge, however.
“It’s exciting,” Cassar said. “I want to play against the best team. That’s how it’s going to be in the playoffs. That’s how it should be.”