By Liviu Bird
SEATTLE — A 0-0 tie with some sparks flying both ways sets up an intriguing matchup in the second leg between Seattle Sounders FC and Real Salt Lake. Here is how each Sounders player fared in the opening 90 minutes:
Michael Gspurning — 8
The goalkeepers starred in this game. Gspurning started his night with a solid collection on a 16th-minute cross and a quick throw to Fredy Montero. Gspurning’s distribution was good all night. His stops on Ned Grabavoy’s breakaway and Will Johnson’s shot from inside the penalty area kept RSL off the scoreboard in a dangerous first half.
Marc Burch — 7
Burch was almost as effective a shot blocker as Gspurning, taking a couple for the team on close-range efforts. He also overlapped more confidently and often than Adam Johansson, even though the majority of the chances went down the opposite side.
Jhon Kennedy Hurtado — 6
Hurtado went largely unnoticed most of the night, but the positive side of that is it means he didn’t make any mistakes. At the same time, other than a run into the box in an offside position that distracted the Salt Lake defenders enough to allow Brad Evans a chance, he didn’t do anything overtly positive, either.
Jeff Parke — 5
For Seattle’s usual defensive stalwart, this was a subpar game. He stepped up to block an early shot in fifth minute, but his wayward cross-field pass in the 30th minute, under no pressure, gave away a deep throw that could have led to a goal if Ned Grabavoy could have finished a simple header. He lost his mark on the free kick that followed his yellow card as well.
Adam Johansson — 6
Because of Mauro Rosales’ frequent involvement in the attack, Johansson got some residual service opportunities on the overlap. He took more advantage in the second half than the first, but he didn’t really add an extra element to the Sounders FC attack.
Brad Evans — 7
The football lines on the field may have confused Evans at the start of the game; his tackles on Javier Morales and Tony Beltran in the 11th minute belonged more in the padded game than the beautiful game. He did have good vision on multiple occasions, including when he ran in behind the defense in the 25th minute to get an opportunity, as the defense was preoccupied with an offside Hurtado.
Osvaldo Alonso — 7
This game again showcased the differences between Alonso and Kyle Beckerman. He filled in mostly defensively this game, although he had a long shot in the third minute to kick off Seattle’s offensive onslaught of the game.
Christian Tiffert — 6
A couple of uncharacteristic missed passes from the German were the only notable contributions he made to the game. He was in on a couple of one-two combinations with Mauro Rosales, though, which brought his passing percentage closer to even.
Mauro Rosales — 8
If it weren’t for Rimando, Rosales may have had three or four assists on Friday night. After an opening 20 minutes with poor service, he really started picking targets out of the crowd and putting players in optimal goal scoring positions. He was the most dangerous attacking player for Seattle.
Fredy Montero — 5
Montero was invisible for great stretches of this game. None of the Sounders’ best opportunities were off his foot, and his decision-making on the ball was suspect. Montero is still yet to score an MLS playoff goal, which is a blemish on his otherwise good record in the league.
Sammy Ochoa — 5
Although his record in all other competitions may say otherwise, Ochoa’s MLS form has him as a way-below-average striker. He had opportunities and displayed energy and desire to find the ball at his feet all night, but he also put a clear chance from six yards out over the goal in the 50th minute. Seattle needed him to step up in Eddie Johnson’s absence, but it just didn’t happen.
David Estrada (on in 57th minute) — 6
Estrada was a little aimless and sporadic in the attack, not creating any more chances than Ochoa until the 81st minute, when he nutmegged Jamison Olave and nearly scored on a deflection. He had his own miss from six yards out, in the 85th minute. Overall, his actions evened out to average.
Mario Martinez (on in 82nd minute) — N/A
Martinez wasn’t on the field long enough to see much of the ball or receive a mark.
Steve Zakuani (on in 90+4th minute) — N/A
Zakuani also wasn’t on the field long enough to receive a mark.
Der Topspieler — Michael Gspurning
In a 0-0 game with chances both ways, the goalkeepers were the best players for their respective teams. While he won’t receive as high a mark as Rimando, Gspurning was just as instrumental in preserving the tie. When he was called upon, he delivered solid, drama-free saves. If he hadn’t been hurt for that stretch in the middle of the season, Gspurning would be a solid candidate for 2012 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.
Dishonorable Mention — (Some) Sounders FC Supporters
Booing an opposition player for being seriously injured is, at the very least, classless. The noise was coming only from the group behind Nick Rimando’s goal, and it continued every time he touched the ball.
Seattle may get credit around the league for its large crowds and passionate support, but the behavior from some quarters after Rimando’s injury is a bigger blemish than the swollen eyelid he received from Tiffert’s inadvertent elbow.