Skip to content

Drilling down on: at Seattle 0, Real Salt Lake 0

Nov 3, 2012, 12:51 AM EDT

Real Salt Lake v Seattle Sounders - Western Conference Semifinals Getty Images

A playoff series opener for Seattle is a shutout waiting to happen.

Four times now the Sounders have begun a two-leg series without finding goal. The bad news for Sounders’ fans, of course, is that Seattle has yet to rally in the second leg to advance.

So Real Salt Lake has a significant leg up following Friday’s scoreless draw in Seattle, the opener in the teams’ Western Conference semifinal series. They’ll decide a winner Thursday at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Man of the Match: The pictures of Nick Rimando at game’s end said it all: the visitor’s outstanding goalkeeper, puffy eyed from a big second-half collision, accepting earnest praise from players on both sides for providing a special performance when his team truly needed one. In addition to a series of stellar stops, the veteran demonstrated steely focus and toughness by remaining on top of things and keeping his wits after the crunching collision left him with a shiner on his right eye, a cut over the nose and who knows what else?

MORE: On Nick Rimando’s spectacular night in Seattle

Threesome of knowledge: What we learned

Quality stuff from the goalkeepers and beyond: Those elimination matches that launched the MLS playoffs were interesting in their own way, but we could ask some questions about the overall quality.

A slick field help reduce the level of play in Chicago on Wednesday, and then one team wasn’t really quite playoff caliber in California on Thursday, if we’re being honest. So while the games had champagne drama, they were more like table wine in terms of style and ability.

Well, these conference semifinals will be a different can of salmon. We suspected as much and weren’t let down. Even if the visitors were a little cautious in places, there was plenty of action, good chances on both sides and few discernible weak links on either side.

The best work, of course, was in either goal. Rimando’s outstanding work included a big sprint off the line to smother a Brad Evans shot as the Sounders’ midfielder broke free along the right. Rimando’s pair of saves on consecutive corner kicks in the 33rd minute were show-stoppers. The better of the pair was his stop on Sammy Ochoa’s sharp header, which needed a big, strong hand to push the ball high. And Rimando’s 51st-minute stop on Christian Tiffert’s snap header was also a highlight maker.

On the other end, Seattle’s steady Michael Gspurning was doing his part to produce a scoreless draw. His best work came as Ned Grabavoy was in behind the defense and later on a Will Johnson’s blast from in close.

Real Salt Lake was dead-set determined not to make the mistake that did in Seattle in last year’s series between these teams.

Opening the home-and-away tussle in Utah, the Sounders didn’t know when to say when. The Sounders fell behind and then pressed naively for the equalizer as if it weren’t a series to be decided over two legs. Result, they lost 3-0 and then could not make up the large deficit on the back end, at home.

So Jason Kreis’ RSL was not about to do the same. Tactical discipline was the order of the day and it worked to perfection. So the outside backs remained cautious. Will Johnson and Ned Grabavoy, the “width” in RSL’s fluid diamond midfield, remained inside and refused to get stretched too wide. Screening man Kyle Beckerman had his usual bounce and bite.

Meanwhile, Javier Morales, Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola, supported by carefully managed numbers, still managed to create the occasional chance for RSL.

Seattle tried to press high and it worked – but only to a point. If the point was to prevent RSL from working all the little combinations in dangerous places, to keep Beckerman, Morales, Espindola, etc., working the fancy little stuff in midfield rather than in the central third, then mission accomplished. On the other hand, RSL had enough technical ability to keep the ball adequately and avoid the killer turnovers in bad places.

In a series that will probably be decided by one goal, the Sounders missed injured leading scorer Eddie Johnson.

Nowhere was that more evident (and painful for Seattle fans) than in the 50th minute. Young fill-in Sammy Ochoa punctuated a wonderful Seattle sequence with a blast from eight yards that flew well high. It really was a great chance with Ochoa running at full gallop right onto a perfectly placed ball from the left.

David Estrada replaced Ochoa in the second half and, in the 85th minute, whiffed from point blank range. Couldn’t we all see a quality finisher like Johnson, confident as he is at the moment, saving the Seattle day on one of those?

Otherwise, neither man has Johnson’s sense of timing near goal, nor his leaping ability on balls supplied by Mauro Rosales or others.

Packaged for take-away

  • Espindola left at halftime due to a hamstring issue, which is unfortunate news for RSL.
  • Yellow cards will be an issue for either team that goes through in this series. Jeff Parke, Brad Evans, Beckerman and Morales were all booked and now stand one more yellow card away from missing the following match.

Highlights: Nick Rimando steals the show

This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!

Michael Gspurning talks after his shutout

This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
Latest Posts
  1. Teams relocated outside of eastern Ukraine ahead of new season

    Jul 23, 2014, 11:40 AM EDT

    waxtap AP

    The show will go on, but not in eastern Ukraine as fighting between pro-Russian rebels and the military continues.

  2. World Cup winner Joachim Low will stay on as Germany’s manager

    Jul 23, 2014, 10:52 AM EDT

    Coach Joachim Low of Germany sings the National Anthem of Germany before their friendly soccer match against the Netherlands in Amsterdam Reuters

    German boss reveals he will stay on as manager until at least 2016. Can you smell a dynasty?

  3. Barcelona sign French defender Jeremy Mathieu for $27 million

    Jul 23, 2014, 10:18 AM EDT

    Everton's Robles and Valencia's Mathieu fight for the ball during a cornerkick at their Guinness International Champions Cup soccer match in Miami Gardens

    Substance over style: Barca sign towering defender from La Liga rivals Valencia.

  4. Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez linked with move to Inter Milan

    Jul 23, 2014, 9:29 AM EDT

    Manchester United's Javier Hernandez keeps the ball from Newcastle's Cheik Ismael Tiote during their English Premier League soccer match at Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England, Saturday Dec. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Jon Super) AP

    Will the Mexican international be moving on this summer?

  5. “Luis Suarez treated like a murderer” – Former Liverpool teammate Iago Aspas

    Jul 23, 2014, 8:46 AM EDT

    Liverpool v Crystal Palace - Premier League Getty Images

    Aspas to Spanish radio: “They are treating Luis like a murderer and not like a footballer.”

  6. Ashley Cole hits back at critics, takes a swipe at Major League Soccer

    Jul 23, 2014, 8:07 AM EDT

    Juventus v Chelsea FC - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Cole: “People were killing me about possibly playing in the USA, saying it’s for the money and easy lifestyle, I choose to play in a more demanding place and team.”

  7. Louis van Gaal criticizes Manchester United’s U.S. tour schedule

    Jul 23, 2014, 7:38 AM EDT

    France v Netherlands - International Friendly Getty Images

    Van Gaal: “You have to fly a lot, you also have jetlag – that is not very positive for a good preparation. The tour was already arranged so I have to adapt.”

  8. Omar Gonzalez still dreams of Europe but “committed to the Galaxy”

    Jul 22, 2014, 11:17 PM EDT

    Marouane Fellaini, ,Omar Gonzalez AP

    L.A. Galaxy Insider report also speculates that Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez could take a Designated Player spot in Major League Soccer if he leaves Old Trafford.

  9. Reds’ Rodgers won’t be baited into criticizing “sensational” Suarez

    Jul 22, 2014, 10:45 PM EDT

    Cardiff City v Liverpool - Premier League Getty Images

    “It’s obviously a shame he’s not here, but Liverpool is a club that’s bigger as any individual,” Rodgers said from Fenway Park.

  10. Cardiff’s promotion hopes take hit: Caulker to QPR; Medel to Inter?

    Jul 22, 2014, 10:03 PM EDT

    steven-caulker-interview-160064-1775672_1600x900

    Inter Milan and Queens Park Rangers have swooped in for two of the Bluebirds’ best players, and Vincent Tan probably isn’t too happy.

  11. EXCLUSIVE: Luke Shaw speaks out about Manchester United move

    Jul 22, 2014, 8:42 PM EDT

    Courtesy: Manchester United Courtesy: Manchester United

    Shaw speaks to PST: “Manchester United are the biggest club in the world. I didn’t think twice when they wanted to sign me.”

  12. Pep Guardiola praises Jurgen Klinsmann’s team concept, USMNT movement

    Jul 22, 2014, 8:39 PM EDT

    Jurgen_Klinsmann_1381686c AP

    When a guy many consider a footballing genius gives the United States coach praise, that’s a pretty cool feather in Klinsmann’s cap.

  13. Premier League teams on US Soil: Tuesday’s roundup and look ahead

    Jul 22, 2014, 7:40 PM EDT

    10406860_10101280893066982_394995962427761541_n

    Premier Leaguers in the U.S. on Tuesday = A day of open training sessions, autographs, football helmets and golf clubs.

  14. Racial incident against Man City’s Fofana ends U-21 match in Croatia

    Jul 22, 2014, 6:43 PM EDT

    twitter.com/sekofofana twitter.com/sekofofana

    The 19-year-old is a promising prospect, but is dealing with negative headlines after being subject to abuse on Tuesday in Croatia.

  15. Southampton fail in bid to bring England WC goalie back to Premier League

    Jul 22, 2014, 6:24 PM EDT

    England Training Session and Press Conference Getty Images

    Fraser Forster will be sticking at Celtic, for now, after Southampton reportedly lowballed the Scottish powers.

  16. Beckham visits Manchester United; Team responds with many ‘selfies’

    Jul 22, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT

    BtLQf7KCQAAehgb

    Hand on shoulder, hair-coiffed, warm smile… next! Becks makes the rounds on the United’s U.S. tour.

  17. Sorting through the most recent DaMarcus Beasley-to-MLS reports

    Jul 22, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    APER SOC BEASLEY

    There have been reports of where the 32-year-old American left sider will not be going, but little as to where he will.

  18. WATCH: James hugs pitch invader; Bernabeu goes bananas for new star

    Jul 22, 2014, 3:56 PM EDT

    James Rodriguez Officially Unveiled At Real Madrid Getty Images

    For every “stars… they’re just like us” moment a player gives you, there are moments like this, which will not happen to 99.9999% of us at work in our lives

  19. Report: Xavi’s move to New York City FC collapses, will remain at Barcelona

    Jul 22, 2014, 2:22 PM EDT

    Xavi Hernandez, Marc Bartra

    Xavi set to remain at Barcelona until January, at least.