Riding wave of momentum, Real Salt Lake face Sounders

football15 May 2024 02:20| © Reuters
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Real Salt Lake © Getty Images

Real Salt Lake look to extend their lead atop the Western Conference standings when they host the Seattle Sounders on Wednesday in Sandy, Utah.

Salt Lake (6-2-4, 22 points) has seized first place in the West on the strength of a 5-0-3 record over its past eight matches. Real Salt Lake coach Pablo Mastroeni thinks many of his players "are reflective of the type of mentality and performances that it takes to be a top team in this league," and that is why he feels this season's roster could be something special.

"I think in years past we wouldn't maintain the type of form that we're on because it gets scary when you're at the top," Mastroeni said, according to FOX 13 News Utah. "And then there's expectations. But I just see this group taking it all in stride."

Elite teams are usually powered by elite players, and Cristian Arango's incredible start has the forward garnering MVP buzz. With 11 goals and seven assists, Arango has contributed to all but two of Real Salt Lake's 20 total regular-season goals.

Raul Ruidiaz has been a similar one-man army with the Sounders. With seven of Seattle's 15 goals this season, Ruidiaz is the only Sounders player who has scored multiple times.

Ruidiaz's latest tally was the match-winner in Seattle's 2-1 road victory over the Portland Timbers on Sunday. After a 1-5-3 start to their season, the Sounders (3-5-4, 13 points) have gotten on track with a 2-0-1 record in their past three matches.

"You beat your rival, you put yourself in a position to ride the momentum that we've been needing," Seattle midfielder Cristian Roldan said after the win over Portland. "For us to not only win on the road, but put that type of performance of grittiness, of belief, to defend our lead is something that we've been needing."

Seattle defender Nouhou Tolo won't play on Wednesday due to a suspension for yellow-card accumulation.

Real Salt Lake midfielder Bode Hidalgo is questionable to play after a hamstring injury sidelined him just 17 minutes into Salt Lake's 2-2 draw with the LA Galaxy on Saturday.