How might the Sounders go about breaching the Wasatch wall? Here are four keys ahead of this Sunday's showdown at CenturyLink Field.

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In the span of 10 fateful minutes last Sunday down in Frisco, Texas, the Sounders went from the verge of a playoff berth … to needing a draw against Real Salt Lake this weekend … to suddenly needing nothing short of victory to ensure an eighth consecutive postseason berth.

Carlos Ruiz’s 89th-minute game-winner for FC Dallas was the real killer. If a point was all Seattle needed from the regular-season finale, it would have felt very secure with its chances.

Salt Lake is winless in six matches dating back to August. In its last five games, RSL has managed just a single goal. Yet the Dallas result means the visitors can bunker in, pack numbers in front of their own goal and play for a scoreless draw — as they did to such effect last weekend to grind out a point against Kansas City.

How might the Sounders go about breaching the Wasatch wall? Below are the key matchups to watch ahead of this Sunday’s showdown at CenturyLink Field.

Osvaldo Alonso vs. Kyle Beckerman

Pulling out the pair of longtime standouts is a simplistic way of underlying how crucial the midfield battle will be. This struggle will be fought both for control of the ball and for the spaces playmakers like Seattle’s Nicolas Lodeiro and RSL’s Javier Morales will inhabit to create.

“That’s kind of a key storyline,” interim Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. “You can almost expand that. It’s not just Beckerman versus Ozzie. It’s Cristian (Roldan) and Ozzie, or Cristian and (Erik) Friberg – however we shape our triangle – versus Sunny and Beckerman and Morales.

“It’s going to be interesting from a tactical standpoint, which group of three can control the game.”

Joao Plata vs. Tyrone Mears and Joevin Jones

The diminutive Ecuadorian has established himself as something of a Sounders boogeyman over the past couple of years. Plata dished out a pair of assists in Salt Lake’s 2-1 home win over Seattle back in March and netted his team’s only goal in the loss by the same scoreline at CenturyLink in August.

Perhaps most memorably, all 5-foot-3 of Plata once even scored against the Sounders on a leaping header at the back post.

“I think Plata is a good matchup for both outside backs,” Schmetzer said. “He’ll float to both sides. Burrito Martinez is the same way. Plus, (Salt Lake forward Yura) Movsisyan against our two big guys. There’s some intriguing matchups all over the field.”

Jordan Morris vs. the RSL back line

Morris’ game would appear to be tailor-made to play against a defense that isn’t exactly fleet of foot — see: Olave, Jamison. The rookie’s galloping runs behind opposing back lines create all kind of gaps for his teammates to push into and exploit. When Morris and Lodeiro are in sync, they can wreak all kinds of havoc.

Schmetzer vs. Jeff Cassar

The opposing head coaches have much in common. Both are former players who patiently bided their time as assistants before the big chair opened up within their respective organizations. Both are well liked around the league, giving off a down-to-earn vibe that isn’t often prevalent in professional sports.

And both could really use a win on Sunday, with Cassar trying to avoid missing the playoffs for a second straight season and Schmetzer still auditioning for the full-time gig.