That’s the question ahead of Wednesday’s key matchup between Real Salt Lake and Seattle. At stake is 2nd place in the Western Conference, and a chance for RSL to lock up no worse than 3rd place with a win at Seattle.
“It’s tough,” said RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy about the match. “I think it’s the only game that’s affected by the international callups.”
It is indeed the only MLS game affected. This match was originally scheduled for July 18th, which would have put it in the middle of a successful 4-game stretch in which RSL won 3 of the 4. However, the Sounders had an opportunity to host Chelsea, and with permission from the league, and the thumbs up from RSL brass it was rescheduled for this coming Wednesday, October 17th.
Of course, that puts it immediately following the current FIFA break for international fixtures, meaning both sides will potentially be missing key figures. Arguably, RSL is ending up with the short end of the stick. Seattle got their Chelsea match, and they stand to have less of an impact from absences. Here is a rundown of the international players potentially impacted for each side:
Adam Johanssen (Sweden): Last game: DNP against Faroe Islands. Next up: in Germany. Impact: significant. Johanssen has been effective from his right back spot for SSFC.
Mario Martinez (Honduras): Last game: 82 minutes against Panama. Next up: Canada on Tuesday in Honduras. Impact: minimal. Martinez has only logged a few minutes with his new squad.
Eddie Johnson (USA): Last game: 90 minutes against Antigua-Barbados. Next up: Guatemala on Tuesday in Kansas City. Impact: significant. Johnson has resurrected his career in Seattle, leading the team in goals with 14.
REAL SALT LAKE
Kyle Beckerman (USA): Last game: DNP against Panama. Next up: Guatemala on Tuesday in Kansas City. Impact: significant. Beckerman is in many ways the heart and soul of his club.
Nick Rimando (USA): Last game: DNP against Panama. Next up: Guatemala on Tuesday in Kansas City. Impact: significant. Rimando has won nearly a fourth of the leagues “Save of the Week” awards with 7 on the season.
Will Johnson: (Canada): Last game: 89 minutes against Cuba. Next up: Honduras on Tuesday in Honduras. Impact: significant. Johnson is RSL’s energizer bunny, and provides tremendous help defensively from his midfield spot.
Alvaro Saborio: (Costa Rica): Last game: 83 minutes against El Salvador. Next up: Guyana Rica on Tuesday in Costa. Impact: significant. Saborio has carried RSL from a goal scoring standpoint with 17 of the team’s 46 goals.
Luis Gil: (USA U-20): Last game: 80 minutes against Scotland U-21. Next up: Azerbaijan on Tuesday in Spain. Impact: as it turns out, none. RSL worked out a deal with Tab Ramos, and the youngster was sent home early. He’ll fill in for Johnson.
Some have wondered if any of these players could see action in this match, after undergoing international duty. Martinez, W. Johnson and Saborio all play in Central America and it would be difficult to make it to Seattle in time, let alone be ready to play. E. Johnson, Beckerman and Rimando all play in Kansas City and could make it to Seattle on the day of the game, but the official party line from the RSL side is they’re not keen on throwing them into the fray under those circumstances even if they don’t play for Team USA the night before.
My guess is that if possible, Rimando will be in the lineup. E. Johnson and Beckerman are probably a much longer shot to play for their respective sides.
The bottom line: Although nobody could have known it when this match was rescheduled, the timing impacts RSL to a greater degree than Seattle. Beckerman and Johnson missing from the midfield, combined with Grabavoy’s injury which will keep him out, leaves the squad very thin in the middle of the field even with Gil’s hastened return to the club.
What do you think about this upcoming clash? Is the deck stacked too far against RSL in this one? Can they pull out a victory despite the circumstances?