While both the Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake are struggling to find wins of late, the Sounders head to Utah on Wednesday night seemingly ready to end their franchise-record victory drought.
Seattle (7-5-5) is mired in an eight-match winless streak in league play (0-4-4) after settling for a 2-all draw Saturday at New England. Eddie Johnson scored both goals, but the Sounders conceded the equalizer deep into stoppage time.
The result, coupled with a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal victory at San Jose last week, has provided Seattle momentum. Coach Sigi Schmid knows the next step would be a victory that draws his side within three points of Real Salt Lake for second in the Western Conference.
"If we had pulled this one out in New England, you can talk maybe about turning the corner," he told the team's official website. "Right now we're still standing at the corner. We've gotten to the corner. We've peeked around the other side. We know what it looks like. Now we need to see what we can do from there."
Johnson may be the player who gets them around that corner. He has scored four goals in his last four matches, accounting for all but one of Seattle's goals in that span. The one-time starter for the U.S. national team is among the league leaders with seven goals, and Schmid hopes his hot streak can continue as fellow forward Fredy Montero returns after serving a red-card suspension Saturday.
"The object is to succeed and play well together," Schmid told the league's official website. "It makes Eddie's job easier when Fredy's on the field playing well and it makes Fredy's job easier when Eddie's on the field playing well."
Johnson has three goals in five lifetime matches versus RSL, but he and Montero were held off the scoresheet in a 1-0 home loss May 12 that triggered Seattle's current winless streak. Montero has two goals in nine matches against Salt Lake.
Real (10-6-2) can relate to Seattle's struggles as it enters this match trying to avoid its first four-game losing streak since July 4-28, 2007.
Playing without suspended captain Kyle Beckerman and injured starters Jamison Olave and Ned Grabavoy, RSL never found a groove Saturday and placed just two shots on goal in a 2-0 loss at Columbus.
"We're in a difficult patch, every team goes through them and we haven't really had one until now," coach Jason Kreis said. "I still believe in this group, they are going to need to lead themselves a little bit out of this."
Having Beckerman back to command the midfield will help that cause, but Real also must tighten a defense that has let in seven goals during its losing streak.
"I think it's mental mistakes," goalkeeper Nick Rimando said. "There's nobody in this locker room that doesn't think we can't continue to do better. We're just not getting the results right now and I think they're coming from mental errors."
RSL is 6-3-0 at home this season after going 32-4-14 there from 2009-11.
Alvaro Saborio has four goals in six lifetime matches against Seattle, while Fabian Espindola's goal in the May 12 win was his first in seven matches versus the Sounders.