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Seattle makeup game impacting Union’s prep for Real Salt Lake challenge

Jim Curtin will pick his starting lineup for Saturday’s visit from Real Salt Lake knowing that the one for the next game is already selected for him.

That’s the unusual predicament that Curtin finds himself in thanks to Tuesday’s reschedule against Seattle, rained out on March 9. That game will resume in the sixth minute, when unplayable fields occasioned its postponement, with the same 22 on the field.

Curtin will take that into account when RSL visits (7:30 p.m., AppleTV).

“It does make it complicated when you know you have a set lineup,” Curtin said Friday. “You’re almost, not working backwards from Tuesday, because tomorrow is most important. But there are some things that are kind of set and you have to adjust and adapt accordingly.”

The last game was shoehorned into six games in three weeks for the Union, then alive in CONCACAF Champions Cup. Kai Wagner didn’t start against Seattle, nor did Julian Carranza. Markus Anderson did, though he might not otherwise have been in Tuesday’s selection plan.

Curtin will push some different buttons Saturday, lest the Union want to burn subs early against the Sounders. Some wiggle room will be made for injuries or roster changes – Matt Real has been loaned out, for instance, and Damion Lowe’s ankle knock might get the Union leeway to swap him out. Xavier Arreaga, who started for Seattle at center back, has also been dealt.

That sets the confines of how the Union (3-0-4, 13 points) approach RSL (4-2-3, 15 points). Pablo Mastroeni’s team enters third in the Western Conference, off a 4-0 pasting in Chicago that Curtin traveled to see, the current environment a far cry from his Fire heyday.

While RSL has long been touted as a manifestation of Mastroeni’s gritty, do-what-it-takes midfield persona, they’re more skilled and more technical than that easy appraisal credits. Chicho Arango, formerly with LAFC, has adapted perfectly to RSL’s tactical needs. He has eight goals and six assists in nine games this season. Only five players have had more goal contributions in the first 10 games of an MLS season.

“He’s playing at an MVP level,” Curtin said. “I’ve challenged our guys, this is a guy – and I saw it live – he’s in great, great form. I think what you’re seeing different with him, and maybe with Pablo it comes down to different styles … In LA, he was very much a box finisher, and an incredible one. But when you think about his time with LA, he did his damage in the 18. What I see as different now, he’s been incredible at coming back off the center backs into almost a 10 position and playing through balls.”

The Union should have goalie Andre Blake back. He left the draw with Atlanta with a leg issue, but he had the bye week to convalesce and trained fully Friday. Mikael Uhre has had a light week of training after he and his wife welcomed their second child, though he’ll play a role. Leon Flach, who hasn’t played this year after tearing a pectoral muscle in preseason, is fit to make the bench, accelerating past Curtin’s expected timeline.

The Union are MLS’ last unbeaten team, despite five of seven games on the road. Thanks in part to the Seattle replay, they have six of nine at home. It’s a massive chance to collect points before a half-dozen or more players scatter to the winds of the summer international window.

Curtin knows how pivotal a tone-setter this might be.

“I think we should have everyone for those games,” Curtin said. “And six of them being at home, it’s no secret to success in this league, you’ve got to win your home games. Hopefully we can start it in the right way.”

Source: Berkshire mont

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