MLS Cup Playoffs 2012: Breaking Down Thursday's Semifinal Action

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MLS Cup Playoffs 2012: Breaking Down Thursday's Semifinal Action
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs are already underway, but Thursday’s schedule has just one matchup for soccer fans; the second leg of the Western Conference semifinals between Real Salt Lake and the Seattle Sounders FC.

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These bitter rivals met three times in the regular season, but between each squad, only one goal was scored. Real Salt Lake stole the only victory gained in the series all the way back on May 12.

With another draw in Game 1 of the semifinals, to say these squads are familiar with each other is an understatement.

Something has to give, though, and Thursday is as good a day as any for the top-tier offensive talent on both teams to unwind and get their side the definitive series advantage.

There is so much on the line in this matchup that even the most causal soccer fans will be able to find serious enjoyment over this tense battle.

 

Where: Rio Tinto Stadium, Salt Lake, UT

When: Thursday Nov. 8 at 10 p.m. ET

Watch: Not nationally televised

Live Stream: MLS Live

 

George Frey/Getty Images

Real Salt Lake Player to Watch: Alvaro Saborío, Forward

There is no better player on Real Salt Lake than veteran forward Alvaro Saborío, but he has yet to step up when his squad needs him the most.

With 17 goals and three assists in 27 matches, it’s just a matter of time before RSL opens the pitch for Saborío and he gets the clear shot at Sounders goalie Michael Gspurning he needs to be effective.

Seattle’s goaltending has been great, but Saborío has faced this level of competition before. Real Salt Lake must carry the mentality into Game 2 that they will feed the ball to their star forward as often as possible.

With just one goal in four games between these squads, this series has become a race to score first.

 

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Seattle Sounders FC Player to Watch: Samuel Ochoa Oregel, Forward

While no Seattle player has the flashy numbers Saborío has amassed with RSL, the Sounders have an ace up their sleeve; young star Samuel Ochoa Oregel.

In four games this season with the Sounders, the forward has a goal and an assist, but it is his style of play that will be the catalyst for a victory.

Ochoa loves to rush down the pitch, force the faster tempo on his opposition and take plenty of shots each and every game; that is exactly what Seattle needs in Game 2.

With the Western Conference semifinal looking more and more like it will come down to one or two goals, the Sounders need their star forward to put his shots on net and make them count.

 

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Prediction: Seattle Sounders 2, Real Salt Lake 0

Even the most casual soccer fans must enjoy how truly similar these two organizations are in style and personnel, but it is how well they matchup and play against each other that is amazing to watch.

With both squads predicated on strong, fundamental defensive play that opens up offensive opportunities, this series will be one by the side that capitalizes on their opposition’s mistake first.

That will be the Seattle Sounders.

Real Salt Lake came into this series as the favorite, but they have been pressing since the opening whistle. With Seattle just waiting for a mistake, a Real Salt Lake player will force an errant pass and the Sounders will net what could become the series-clinching goal.

After Seattle scores, RSL will push the tempo even harder and likely get caught with at least one more goal towards the end of this match. If Game 2 is half as exciting as the first of this series, this is must-watch programming.

 

Check back for more on MLS as it comes, and don’t miss Bleacher Report’s Soccer page to get your fill of all things soccer.

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