Seattle, which entered the weekend in first place in the Supporters’ Shield standings, will look to regain its lead atop the Major League Soccer standings on Sunday against the New York Red Bulls. Here’s what to watch for.
Last time out: Red Bulls 4, Sounders 1 on Sept. 20, 2014 at Red Bull Arena — Bradley Wright-Phillips opened the scoring less than 30 seconds in en route to a hat trick as New York swarmed over an overmatched and energy-depleted Seattle back line.
Battle to watch: New York’s pressing style vs. Seattle’s temper
The Red Bulls get in opponents’ faces. They press the ball, from start to finish, from front to back. They grind opponents’ down, test their patience, get under their skin.
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Sunday’s game, in other words, could be even more physical then Wednesday’s hackfest against Colorado. That match was summed up by the broken nose Obafemi Martins suffered in the first half — but Seattle gave nearly as well as it got. Osvaldo Alonso hacked down Dillon Powers in the first half and nipped at the ankles of Colorado’s midfielders the rest of the way.
“We can’t complain because Ozzie had a ton of fouls as well,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “… Oba got beat up a little bit, but (Colorado midfielder Juan) Ramirez got beat up a little bit in the second half, so maybe it all evens out.”
If Alonso shifts back into vigilante-pit-bull mode again early, referee Jose Carlos Rivero could be in for a long, card-filled afternoon.
Player to watch: New York forward Bradley Wright-Phillips.
For all the reasons detailed here. Wright-Phillips is a pure goal poacher of the Chris Wondolowski mold — the same Chris Wondolowski that powered San Jose’s upset win at CenturyLink earlier this year.
Wright-Phillips tests a defense’s sharpness and its concentration. He’s forever hovering around the edges. By the numbers, Seattle’s back line has been steady since its wobbly start. But it is still plagued by moments of confusion as its chemistry continues to work itself out. Wright-Phillips will pounce on any lapse in understanding.
Runner-up goes to Lloyd Sam, the Red Bulls’ tricky, talented winger. Sam’s influence has often been overshadowed by the bigger names around him, but his speedy runs up the flank are an invaluable part of New York’s attack.
How to watch: The match will be televised nationally on ESPN2. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. PST.