RSL 0 : 1 Sounders FC
One moment of genius by MLS debutant Mario Martinez settled this tie. His left foot strike late in the second half was worthy of splitting two superb sides over 180 minutes, RSL will bemoan their inability to score which leaves a great deal of work to do before next year. They end the season having failed to score in its last 512 minutes.
Sounders now advance to meet LA Galaxy in the semi final in what has been their best ever MLS season already. Two selection choices raised eyebrows.
Kenny Mansally came in as a late replacement for Chris Wingert who aggravated a right quad in the warm up. Mario Martinez started his first MLS game after Mauro Rosales failed to make even the 18. Tiffert began on the Sounders right with Evans in central midfield.
The first incident of note came in the sixth minute. Morales skipped too easily passed Alonso and Parke clumsily brought him down two yards outside the box. In keeping with the more liberal refereeing of the play-offs, Parke escaped a card. Grabavoy’s free kick was straight at the wall.
A corner ensued and Hurtado performed a very good header to clear away while facing the goal. Grabavoy tested Gspurning three minutes later having latched onto a through ball via a smart diagonal run.
The angle was too tight and the shot too weak to trouble the giant Austrian though. It took eleven minutes for Seattle to threaten. Montero won a corner on the right Martinez’s corner sailed over all.
Tiffert had already moved from right to left midfield as the managerial chess match continued.
Martinez was now on the right against the late inclusion Mansally in what looked a promising match up for Seattle. Montero made an ugly challenge on Johnson in 14 but Penso kept his cards once more in his pocket.
Montero’s next involvement was more positive. He set up Tiffert well on the right but the German shot too wide of the goal when he ought to have hit the target. Martinez and Tiffert switched again.
Paulo missed the best chance of the match so far when Mansally made yet more progress up RSL’s left and whipped in a superb cross. Saborio could only divert the ball over with the goal begging. Beckerman made his biggest impact off the tie with a powerful 24th minute run and lob which Johansson was forced to clear for a corner.
Saborio fired wide shortly after to conclude an opening 25 minutes dominated by the home side. Schmid used a short stoppage to give Marc Burch some fresh instructions to stem the flow while Tiffert nursed a head wound incurred when a flying boot hit him accidentally as he fell over in a collision.
From the press box, it seemed that the Sounders medics were inserting stitches onto the German’s head. There was enough blood that he had to change jersey but after three minutes on the sideline, he returned to action in a numberless jersey.
Martinez forced yet another outstanding save from Rimando from 28 yard free kick then punched an improved corner clear. Penso was forced to have a stern word with Montero after another foul that had the crowd riled up over its severity. Olave overreacted to Johnson after the Sounders striker was legitimately fouled in the center circle, the first sign that Johnson was causing any irritation to RSL.
Gspurning came to punch a Beltran cross. Another opportunity came just minutes later through Grabavoy; however, before Burch hacked down Grabavoy, he was frankly running into traffic anyway. The keeper handled the free kick superbly with a clean catch.
Alonso delivered a fantastic tackle to dispossess Grabavoy in the penalty area despite the optimistic shouts for a penalty.
Johnson too shot straight at the Seattle keeper as RSL continued to create half chances.
Johansson scraped a ball wide for a corner but a goal kick was given, balancing a wrong decision seconds before when RSL were awarded a Sounders throw in to cries of “Idiot” from Sounders owner Joe Roth.
Half time came with another altercation between Eddie Johnson and Olave. Sounders had been very poor but to their credit, Gspurning had not been forced to make any great saves, and his opposite number Rimando had. However with just 38% of first half possession, the signs were ominous for the next 45 if RSL could break a 467 minute goalless run.
Just 33 seconds into the second half, Rimando made another fantastic full stretch save from Evans. Alonso finally incurred Penso’s wrath with a cynical but it has to be said needless touchline chop on Morales. Eddie Johnson headed straight into Rimando’s arms. Sounders had started the second half well. Parke defended well in his own box.
Kreis then made his big decision. 58 minutes in, he introduced Espindola for the ineffective Paulo Jr. Gspurning made his best save of the match off a Morales free kick that was allowed to curl over the defenders. His reactions were superb.
He had an easier turn seconds later when Borchers messed up a chance and put neither head nor foot when just seven yards away. Montero headed wide on a ball just a little too high for him, but Sounders were far more equal to their foes in the opening twenty of the second half than they had been in the first. That coincided with a higher level of involvement from Brad Evans.
Beltran became the latest player to bleed for the cause and it became RSL’s turn to play a man down while treatment was administered. While he was waiting to return, Gspurning made a hash of a clearance but an alert Johansson bailed him out. The game had reached an amazing level of intensity with chances and spaces beginning to appear with a greater regularity.
Tiffert compounded a poor showing by scything a great cross wildly out of play. It was enough for Schmid who removed a bored looking compatriot for Andy Rose in 72. It was hard to see the DP returning next season at this moment. His performance had been petulant and disinterested on the night. Rose was already causing problems at a Sounders set piece with Espindola struggling to mark him.
Saborio brought out a ground save from Gspurning after a passing move involving Morales. Olave disposed Johnson a trifle luckily at the other end as the American striker was poised to shoot. Hurtado skillfully repeated the does at the other end to rob Saborio.
RSL passed 500 minutes without a goal. Gspurning nearly gifted them one having come out too far and needing two attempts to gather. Sounders broke the deadlock and it was with a finosh worthy of the tie. Mario Martinez lashed in a thunderous drive with his left from a tight angle, leaving the keeper no chance. Brad Evans was the creator haven driven up the field with purpose sending defenders on their back heels before finding Montero.
RSL had a mere nine minutes to rescue this memorable tie. With an irony, Gspurning began to take his time at goal kicks. Gil replaced Beltran before Espindola fired wildly over from a tight angle and Jonny Steele replaced the other full back Mansally.
Sounders responded by bringing on Zach Scott for the goal hero Martinez who exited too slowly for Morales’ liking. Gspurning punched a dangerous cross clear and another corner followed. Gspurning punched over again. Another corner failed to beat the first defender while Sounders defended heroically.
Montero left for David Estrada as Schmid wisely ran down the clock with his side holding out under heavy pressure. Gspurning tipped a Saborio header over the bar but there was an air of futility and desperation about RSL’s attempts. Five minutes were added, news that was well greeted by the home crowd.
A denied (and weak) penalty claim followed by a free kick the other way was not so much. Brad Evans went down with cramp and had to limp off returning almost immediately. With yet another corner, Rimando approached the half way line. RSL continued to pound the Seattle goal but the visitors seemed to have this under control. And indeed they did.
Referee Penso brought the proceedings to an end and the Seattle contingent celebrated as RSL players wondered what may lie ahead.
Seattle Sounders FC – Michael Gspurning, Adam Johansson, Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Marc Burch, Christian Tiffert (Andy Rose 73), Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Mario Martinez (Zach Scott 87), Fredy Montero (David Estrada 89), Eddie Johnson. Substitutes Not Used: Marcus Hahnemann, Alex Caskey, Steve Zakuani, Sammy Ochoa.
TOTAL SHOTS: 9; SHOTS ON GOAL: 5; FOULS: 13; OFFSIDE: 3; CORNER KICKS: 5; SAVES: 9.
Real Salt Lake – Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran (Luis Gil 85), Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, Kenny Mansally (Jonny Steele 86), Ned Grabavoy, Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Will Johnson, Paulo Junior (Fabian Espindola 58), Alvaro Saborio. Substitutes Not Used: Kyle Reynish, Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Yordany Alvarez, Sebastian Velasquez.
TOTAL SHOTS: 14; SHOTS ON GOAL: 9; FOULS: 10; OFFSIDE: 0; CORNER KICKS: 7; SAVES: 4.