Real Salt Lake has matched the longest unbeaten streak to begin a season in MLS history.
And it finds itself in second place.
Salt Lake can change that Saturday night as it visits the Western Conference-leading Seattle Sounders in a match that will be light on its typical star power but full of early season implications of supremacy.
"These are the games that players look to play in," Sounders coach Sigi Schmid told the club's official website. "It's a big game. We're at home. We're in front of our fans. That's always exciting for us. And it's a chance for us to retain our position at the top of table and that's what we want to do."
Salt Lake's run reached record-tying proportions last Saturday in a scoreless home draw with FC Dallas, a result that didn't leave RSL (6-0-6) especially cheerful even though it became the third team in league history without a blemish through 12 matches. The 1996 Los Angeles Galaxy started 12-0, including two shootout victories before league rules changed to include draws, while the 2010 Galaxy began 10-0-2.
"I thought we came out flat," coach Jeff Cassar said. "We were moving and possessing the ball, but really without purpose."
Scoring chances could again be hard to come by with its top two scorers likely out.
Salt Lake will be without star forward Alvaro Saborio for a third straight match, but it'll be due to injury rather than his Costa Rica national team call-up. The club had already expected to be without him as he spent the World Cup period with his country. Now, the forward will miss the World Cup and be out for at least three months after suffering a fractured foot Thursday in national team camp.
RSL will likely also be missing Joao Plata, who is doubtful with a left hamstring injury. That leaves Cassar with Devon Sandoval, Olmes Garcia and Robbie Findley as options up top, none of whom have scored this season.
Additionally, the U.S. national team retained RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando and midfielder Kyle Beckerman as well as Sounders forward Clint Dempsey and defender DeAndre Yedlin.
Seattle defender Djimi Traore is expected to miss the match with an adductor tear.
"We're missing some people. They're missing some people. I think they're still a good team," Schmid said. "It's the top two teams in the league, so it should be a great game."
Besides a depleted attack, RSL has been held to three goals in eight all-time visits to Seattle while suffering six shutouts.
Salt Lake hasn't scored in its last three trips to Seattle, the latest a 2-0 loss Sept. 13 as Obafemi Martins and Lamar Neagle scored for the Sounders to avoid a sweep in the three-game season series.
"Historically, it's always close games with those guys," Seattle midfielder Brad Evans said. "It's a bit of a rivalry. We're expecting a good battle."
Seattle (8-3-2) retained its two-point lead in the conference with last Saturday's 2-2 draw in Vancouver. Chad Barrett put the Sounders ahead in the 36th minute before they fell behind by the 66th. Gonzalo Pineda's 82nd-minute goal from the penalty spot salvaged a point.
Findley made his first appearance of the season as a substitute against Dallas after missing the start of the season to rehab from knee surgery. The veteran forward scored in both of Salt Lake's victories over the Sounders last season.
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- Sigi Schmid