Sounders FC 0 : 0 Real Salt Lake
Sounders FC survived the early dismissal of Zach Scott to battle their way to a well deserved 0-0 draw against Real Salt Lake.
Scott accumulated two yellows inside the opening half hour, the first somewhat unfortunate as the ball seemed to have gone out of play for a throw in. Fabian Espindola played on and Scott tugged back Espindola and was booked for his troubles.
However an experienced player like him should have known better than to make the second challenge twenty minutes later, a crude lunge on Javier Morales who was roundly booed thereafter by the home crowd.
The loudest boos however were not for or any Real Salt Lake player, but for referee Ricardo Salazar.
Sounders FC fans remembered him as the official who presided over the controversial penalty shootout in Kansas City during the U.S. Open Cup final and renewed their displeasure after the red card.
That was one of the few occasions Sounders fans had to make their voices heard at the start, as the game progressed at a fairly relaxed pace in the first half. It had the feel of a midweek game coming off an international break, with many seats remaining unfilled until 20 minutes into the match and both sides without star attractions.
It was Seattle who handled their personnel changes better with Brad Evans starting at right back and Scott at cente half. Kyle Beckerman started for RSL despite traveling with the USA squad although Canadian Will Johnson and Costa Rican forward Alvaro Saborio were absent. Luis Gil and Emiliano Bonfigli started but tellingly neither finished.
The most dangerous chances came on Seattle corner kicks, as the Salt Lake defenders failed to clear at the first opportunity multiple times. Nonetheless, the ball would eventually end up in Nick Rimando’s grateful hands.
Kyle Beckerman had tested Gspurning with one long range effort and Rimando was forced to get down low and gather at the other end in a first half long on attempted intricacy with RSL the main culprits and short on goal threats.
The game was beginning to find a rhythm when Salazar took center stage in the 30th minute.
Scott, already on a booking, arrived slightly late into a challenge with Javier Morales and was promptly shown his second yellow card for upending the Argentinian.
That allowed Mike Seamon to make his first appearance of the season, coming on at right back as Brad Evans slid to the middle with Sammy Ochoa making way.
Salt Lake pushed more numbers forward, looking for an opportunity to exploit the man-down Sounders.
Sounders had a loud claim for handball when a shot hit Luis Gil on his arm which was right in front of his body. Had the arm been outstretched, it would have been a penalty. However, he gained no advantage having the arm in front of his body, and Salazar’s call was probably correct. Despite that the booing intensified.
The half time whistle saw Sounders in the ascendancy despite their man disadvantage and Jason Kreis should have had some harsh words for his side’s lackadaisicalness.
But the harshest words were to come from elsewhere and were aimed right into the camera.
Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid launched into a tirade at Salazar at half time on national television.
“We have our 12th man which is the fans. They have theirs which is Ricardo Salazar,”
From thereon, it went downhill and Schmid pointed out that every time Salazar refereed his side, some misfortune befell them. He obviously had his mind on the decision to retake a penalty in the US Open Cup Final in Kansas City although Salazar had also refereed the recent local derby in Portland without incident.
After the match, he added:
“Lord help us if we get Salazar in the playoffs.”
MLS may not be able to ignore this particular outburst given the match was on NBC Universal although it was only marginally worse than other Schmid verbals over the four years.
Far from disputing the yellow, Jason Kreis thought Scott’s tackle may have indeed merited a red:
“I think it was a straight red card. I don’t think there was any question about it. It was a very, very dangerous tackle that stopped an attacking chance, so for me, no decision necessary there.”
It must be election season.
Chris Schuler replaced Jamison Olave at half time for the visitors.
RSL started the second half with more intent and Morales forced Gspurning into an early fingertip save from long range. Schuler was booked for a soft shove on Montero just five minutes after coming on as the crowd continued to harangue Salazar, smartly trying to draw make-up calls.
Sounders did not need any help. They continued to do a fine job with ten men and Rosales just missed the goal with a curler with Rimando helpless.
Frustrated with the domination of the ten men, Kreis made another change introducing Seb Velasquez for the ineffective Bonfigli.
Chances were henceforth sporadic.
Brad Evans executed a fantastic tackle to deny Espindola in a rare excursion to the Seattle end on one of the utility player’s finest outings for Seattle.
Beckerman fired over from a distance as the introduction of Velasquez improved the RSL energy level. A tiring Montero left for David Estrada in the 75th minute with the score still 0-0 while Alex Caskey was next in replacing an also tiring Rosales with ten minutes left. Kreis removed Gil for debutant, the Franco-Portuguese David Viana.
On one occasion, when RSL finally pierced the Sounders defence, it was Evans again who made an incredible last ditch tackle to scoop the ball back into Gspurning’s arms without fouling Beltran, the man about to pull the trigger. For a man who is just an occasional defender, it was an amazing piece of judgment and well executed.
RSL continued their pattern of over elaborate intricacy and finally in stoppage time, it nearly paid dividends. Schuler created space and made Gspurning produce one last great save, his best of the night.
At the death, Rose deflected a Velasquez chance just round the post aided by an intuition movement from his keeper.
Sounders worked extremely hard and undoubtedly won a moral victory with the play-off surely destined to pitch the two sides together again.
RSL will have to perform far better than their lacklustre performance tonight if they are to progress should that be the case. Tonight they looked a gift horse in the mouth and declined to even give it a dental check up.
More Match Coverage:
Seattle Sounders FC – Michael Gspurning, Brad Evans, Zach Scott, Jeff Parke, Marc Burch, Mauro Rosales (Alex Caskey 80), Osvaldo Alonso, Andy Rose, Christian Tiffert, Fredy Montero (David Estrada 76), Sammy Ochoa (Michael Seamon 40).
Substitutes Not Used: Marcus Hahnemann, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Servando Carrasco, Cordell Cato.
TOTAL SHOTS: 10; SHOTS ON GOAL: 2; FOULS: 13; OFFSIDE: 1; CORNER KICKS: 3; SAVES: 5.
Real Salt Lake – Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran, Jamison Olave (Chris Schuler 46), Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert, Kyle Beckerman, Luis Gil (David Viana 82), Johnny Steele, Javier Morales, Fabian Espindola, Emiliano Bonfigli (Sebastian Velasquez 71).
Substitutes Not Used: Kyle Reynish, Yordany Alvarez, Kenny Mansally, Enzo Martinez.
TOTAL SHOTS: 13; SHOTS ON GOAL: 5; FOULS: 10; OFFSIDE: 2; CORNER KICKS: 5; SAVES: 2.
SEA – Zach Scott (caution) 10′
SEA – Zach Scott (ejection) 30′
RSL – Tony Beltran (caution) 45+1′
RSL – Chris Schuler (caution) 51′
SEA – Christian Tiffert (caution) 67′
Referee: Ricardo Salazar