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Sounders-United Preview

The Associated Press

Saturday night's matchup between the Seattle Sounders and D.C. United marks a collision between the top teams from each conference.

However, neither will be at full strength with both rosters missing key players.

Seattle looks for its ninth victory in 11 matches Saturday night when it visits D.C., which hasn't lost at home in 3 1/2 months.

The Sounders (10-3-2) lead the league table with 32 points and their 32 goals are also the most in MLS. They're 8-1-1 in their last 10 matches with nine goals in the last three, though they haven't played a league match since a 3-2 win June 7 at Chicago due to the World Cup break.

"We don't want to come back now and get in a slump and all that hard work we put in goes away," goalkeeper Stefan Frei told the team's official website.

But as they try to pick up where they left off, they'll be without their top two scorers Saturday.

Clint Dempsey, who has eight goals, is with the U.S. men's national team in Brazil. Obafemi Martins has also scored eight times and leads the club with six assists, but is suspended due to a red card. He scored twice before being sent off against Chicago.

Additionally, defender DeAndre Yedlin has started 11 matches but is also with the U.S. team.

Though his squad may be depleted, coach Sigi Schmid was encouraged by the performances in two U.S. Open cup matches during the break. Kenny Cooper scored three times, matching his total from 14 league contests this season.

"We have options and we need different people to step up," Schmid told the team's official website.

United (7-4-4) is in first place in the Eastern Conference for the first time in two years, thanks in part to a 5-0-3 home record since losing to Columbus in its opener March 8. D.C. is less than a year removed from finishing with the worst record in MLS history at 3-24-7.

"It's nice to look at that, and I'm sure for the guys, they'll be extremely pleased to see their work being rewarded," coach Ben Olsen said. "But we've all been around this league for a while - these players and our staff. We understand that it's a long season, and we have to keep continuing to do the things that we've done well, and more importantly, we've got to get better."

Olsen's club is coming off a 4-2 win over Montreal on June 11. Luis Silva recorded a hat trick after not scoring in his first nine matches and Nick DeLeon also got his first goal of the season.

However, United is now without forward Fabian Espindola and captain Davy Arnaud.

Espindola, whose seven goals and eight assists both lead the team, is expected to miss about five more weeks due to a strained MCL suffered in the victory. Plus, he was suspended for two games Friday for violent conduct toward Impact midfielder Felipe Martins. Arnaud, who has scored three times in seven career matches against the Sounders, is suspended due to yellow card accumulation.

Saturday will mark striker Eddie Johnson's first game against Seattle since being traded to D.C. in December. Johnson, who tallied 26 league goals in two seasons for the Sounders, has only scored once through his first 12 matches for United.

Seattle is 2-0-1 in the last three meetings, outscoring D.C. 5-0.

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