TUKWILA, Wash. – According to the schedule, tonight marks the year’s third and final meeting between the Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake.
But that’s just the regular season, of course.
It is very possible the 7 p.m. game at CenturyLink Field, a nationally televised bout featuring the top two teams in MLS, could be a preview for yet another clash in the playoffs.
Seattle and RSL have met in the Western Conference semifinals the past two years. They are also two of only three teams – two-time champion Los Angeles Galaxy being the other – that have qualified for each of the past five postseasons.
Both appear set to make it six years in a row.
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid wouldn’t be surprised to see more big games in the Salt Lake rivalry: “At some point if we want to be in the playoffs and win it, we’re going to have to cross paths with them or the team that beats them.”
The playoff series are split, each team winning one, but RSL has had the better of matters in the regular season with a 5-2-4 record in the series, including two convincing wins this year.
Offense has been the Sounders’ issue against Salt Lake, having scored just twice against goalkeeper Nick Rimando in the past 659 minutes, dating to the 2011 conference semifinals.
Rimando, who played for Schmid in college, has shut out Seattle five times in the past seven games, employing every inch of his 5-foot-9 frame in making some acrobatic saves along the way.
Sounders midfielder Brad Evans has been ruled out of tonight’s game with a calf strain.