Sounders-Real Salt Lake Preview

The Associated Press

The MLS-best Seattle Sounders have enjoyed some memorable victories at Rio Tinto Stadium in recent seasons.

Now they'll have to avoid losing there without one of their top players to keep the top spot in the Western Conference.

With Obafemi Martins suspended, Seattle seeks its third straight win versus Real Salt Lake but first on the road since the 2012 conference semifinals as the West's top teams meet Saturday.

The Sounders made their only two victories in eight trips to Rio Tinto Stadium count, snapping RSL's 29-game home unbeaten streak in May 2011 and recording the franchise's first playoff series win there two years ago.

There isn't quite as much at stake in this matchup, though Seattle (13-6-2) leads the conference with 41 points while RSL (10-4-9) is just behind with 39.

"It's going to be a battle, always against Salt Lake," Sounders midfielder Osvaldo Alonso told the league's official website. "We are confident to go there, play our game and take the three points."

RSL was undefeated through its first 12 matches in 2014 before Seattle ended the run with a 4-0 home victory May 31. Salt Lake, though, has lost only once in 12 home games this year (6-1-5).

Martins has eight goals on the season and has scored in the last two meetings, but the All-Star forward won't be available in Utah because of a red-card suspension.

Clint Dempsey leads the Sounders with nine goals, but he's scored only once in his last seven MLS matches. The All-Star did not play in the first meeting while playing in the World Cup.

RSL also was without captain Kyle Beckerman and goalkeeper Nick Rimando in Seattle because of international duty. Rimando recorded his MLS-record 113th shutout in last Saturday's 3-0 win over D.C. United that moved the club briefly ahead of Seattle.

Chris Schuler scored his first two goals, while Joao Plata added his team-leading 10th of the season. Plata has scored in each of his last two contests and four of six.

"I think everyone is coming together right now," coach Jeff Cassar said. "We just want to stay humble and keep working hard."

Seattle was able to move back on top of the West a day later with a 2-0 win over Houston, avoiding a third straight loss and giving Sigi Schmid his 200th MLS coaching victory.

Now the Sounders could get a boost from midfielder Andy Rose, who scored two goals in Wednesday's 6-0 win over Chicago in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals. The Sounders will face Philadelphia on Sept. 16 in the final in Chester, Pennsylvania.

Rose has played just five MLS games after having knee surgery in June and has also dealt with a hamstring injury.

Salt Lake is looking to win its third in a row over Seattle at Rio Tinto Stadium. Robbie Findley has scored in three of his four home games against the Sounders but has no goals in seven MLS matches in 2014.

RSL owns a 5-4-4 all-time record in the series.

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