Before the Seattle Sounders traveled to Dick's Sporting Goods Park on Oct. 5, it was hard to imagine a stronger MLS Cup contender. Seattle was enjoying an 8-3-1 stretch. The Supporters' Shield was within its grasp. And they still hadn't seen the best of marquee signing Clint Dempsey. Follow GOAL.COM on Twitter
But the Colorado Rapids thrashed Seattle that night, scoring four first-half goals en route to a 5-1 triumph. Thus began an 0-4-1 Seattle slide that ended with the Sounders in the Western Conference play-in game — a rematch with the Rapids. With a conference semifinal against the top-seeded Portland Timbers at stake, Seattle and Colorado will clash at CenturyLink Field on Wednesday at 10:30 p.m. on NBCSN.
Neither team will be at full strength for this encounter. Sidelined by a concussion suffered the last time these teams met, Rookie of the Year candidate Dillon Powers is unlikely to feature for the Rapids. Martin Rivero and Nick LaBrocca are the top candidates to fill in for Powers at the top of Colorado's midfield triangle, though forward Gabriel Torres and winger Vicente Sanchez could also be shifted into the role.
The Sounders, meanwhile, will only have forward Obafemi Martins (groin) available for an appearance off the bench, at best. This means Dempsey, who scored his first Seattle goal in Sunday's 1-1 draw with the LA Galaxy, will likely partner once again with Eddie Johnson. Defender Leo Gonzalez and playmaker Mauro Rosales are also injury doubts, opening the door for Marc Burch to step in at left back and Adam Moffat to start centrally (with Brad Evans sliding to Rosales' wide position).
There are compelling matchups to watch all over the field. In Colorado's Hendry Thomas and Seattle's Osvaldo Alonso, two of the league's best holding midfielders will battling for control centrally. Dempsey and Johnson should be a handful for Colorado's sturdy center back pairing of Drew Moor and Shane O'Neill. And two of the speediest players in MLS will go head to head when the Rapids' Deshorn Brown faces Sounders right back DeAndre Yedlin.
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