TUKWILA — The two best teams in the Western Conference will meet Saturday.
Sure, a handful of the best players might be gone, removing some shine from a glittering matchup, but there will be MLS history on the line when Sounders FC hosts Real Salt Lake at 1 p.m.
RSL has gone unbeaten in its first 12 games at 6-0-6, tied for the longest unbeaten streak to start a season.
So is preventing the record extra motivation for a first-place Seattle team looking to extend a streak of its own, having won four in a row at CenturyLink Field?
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“It will be,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “It should be. You always want to play well, and you always want to be first at doing things. … Winning the game is most important. Stopping their streak is part of winning the game.”
Captain Brad Evans added: “Streaks obviously are meant to be broken. When you’re on the other side of the streak, that’s how you look at it.”
Several key players on both teams won’t be available, unfortunately.
Four have been named to the U.S. national team’s final 23-man roster for the upcoming World Cup: Seattle’s duo of Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin, along with RSL standouts Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando.
The visitors also will be without their two most productive forwards with Joao Plata (six goals, three assists) listed as doubtful with a hamstring injury and designated player Alvaro Saborio (six goals, two assists) facing a long recovery having broken his foot with the Costa Rican national team in pre-World Cup training.
The Sounders also got bad injury news this week as an MRI revealed defender Djimi Traore suffered a slight tear in his adductor in Vancouver. He has been ruled out, but Seattle is expected to get back Lamar Neagle (hamstring) and Chad Marshall (illness) after both missed the last game.
Personnel issues will be quickly forgotten, though, when the game kicks off. It has been depth, of course, that has helped both teams earn the most points and score the most goals in the league.
“Historically, they’re all close games with those guys — it’s a bit of rivalry,” said Evans. “We expect a good battle. Obviously they’re missing some key guys, we’re missing some key guys, and sometimes that might spark a little bit of feistiness, a little bit more of a gritty performance (for them away from home).”
Especially to keep the streak alive.
The Sounders will have one added fan in their corner, though. Schmid’s friend Lothar Osiander was actually the coach of the 1996 Los Angeles Galaxy, the first of four teams to start a season on a 12-game unbeaten streak.
“These are the games that you want to be involved in,” Schmid said. “It’s a big game. We’re at home, we’re in front of our fans … and it’s a chance for us to retain our position at the top of the table.”
• The Sounders will host amateur team PSA Elite in a U.S. Open Cup fourth-round game June 18 at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
• Seattle and Vancouver were warned by the MLS disciplinary committee this week for violating league rules on mass confrontation in last week’s second-half scuffle. Sounders forward Chad Barrett and Whitecaps midfielder Pedro Morales were fined an undisclosed amount for their roles.
• Eight Sounders are on the MLS All-Star ballot, with fan voting open online until July 11: Dempsey, Yedlin, Evans, Neagle, Marshall, Obafemi Martins, Osvaldo Alonso and Stefan Frei.
Real Salt Lake is the fourth team in MLS history to start a season unbeaten in 12 games.
|Real Salt Lake||2014||6-0-6|
|*Includes two wins in shootout|
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184
On Twitter @joshuamayers