Skip to content

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

Nov 3, 2012, 12:51 AM EST

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. Sure there’s “interest throughout Europe”, but where is the best spot for Jozy Altidore?

    Nov 28, 2014, 11:01 AM EST

    Altidore Getty Images

    We pick three clubs in three countries that could be a landing spot for the out-of-favor Sunderland striker in the January transfer window.

  2. Premier League Preview: West Bromwich Albion vs. Arsenal

    Nov 28, 2014, 10:10 AM EST

    West Bromwich Albion's Reid shouts at Arsenal's Cazorla during their English Premier League soccer match in London Reuters

    The Baggies are coming off losses to Chelsea and Newcastle, and are four points back of eighth place Arsenal. The NBCSN match kicks at 745am ET.

  3. Pick just three?!? FIFPro World XI midfielder shortlist is Juve-heavy, really good

    Nov 28, 2014, 9:37 AM EST

    FC Internazionale Milano v Juventus - Serie A Getty Images

    Spain (4) and Germany (3) are the only nations with multiple members.

  4. Roy Keane’s time with Aston Villa has come to an end

    Nov 28, 2014, 8:35 AM EST

    Aston Villa v Manchester City - Premier League Getty Images

    Manchester United’s legendary midfielder will stay in his assistant coach role for Ireland, spend more time with his family.

  5. Feature on Kevin Alston details Revolution defender’s battle with leukemia

    Nov 28, 2014, 7:58 AM EST

    New England Revolution v New York Red Bulls - Eastern Conference Final - Leg 1 Getty Images

    Vice Sports writer Kevin Koczwara has the story of Alston’s fight with chronic myelogenous leukemia.

  6. New England Revolution, 90 minutes from MLS Cup, must simply avoid second-leg disaster vs. Red Bulls

    Nov 27, 2014, 11:15 PM EST

    Steve Clark, Lee Nguyen, Charlie Davies Steve Clark, Lee Nguyen, Charlie Davies

    It’s been a long time since the New England Revolution lost by mulitple goals, which the New York Red Bulls must achieve to reach MLS Cup 2014.

  7. Europa League roundup: Spurs, Celtic advance; Inter Milan, Fiorentina clinch top spots

    Nov 27, 2014, 9:26 PM EST

    The big Europa League sides have begun to advance to the knockout round, with a few more very close to joining them.

  8. Everton win Europa League group, qualify for knockout round

    Nov 27, 2014, 4:09 PM EST

    Toffees seal spot in Europa League knockout rounds after terrific away day display.

  9. Five investigated, including three FIFA execs, in World Cup corruption probe

    Nov 27, 2014, 3:17 PM EST

    64th FIFA Congress 64th FIFA Congress

    Three FIFA ExCo members and German legend latest to be under the spotlight.

  10. Pele moved to “special care” unit as treatment continues

    Nov 27, 2014, 2:05 PM EST

    Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pele AP

    Brazilian legend hospitalized for second time this month.

  11. English FA charge Dave Whelan after anti-Semitic, racist comments

    Nov 27, 2014, 1:15 PM EST

    Barnsley v Wigan Athletic - Sky Bet Championship Getty Images

    Whelan charged by FA over accusations of anti-Semitic, racist remarks.

  12. VIDEO: PST Extra examines huge top four showdowns in Premier League

    Nov 27, 2014, 10:55 AM EST

    Hull City v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Getty Images

    Can Spurs and Everton make a top four charge? Will Saints stun Man City?

  13. Huge blow for Arsenal as Jack Wilshere is out for three months

    Nov 27, 2014, 9:13 AM EST

    Wilshere AP

    Wilshere has surgery on left ankle, as young midfielder set for another lengthy spell on the sidelines.

  14. Bob Bradley talks Stabaek, job offers, offseason plans and more

    Nov 27, 2014, 8:51 AM EST

    Bradley, Stabaek

    Bradley opens up about his first season at Stabaek, his future in Europe and much more.

  15. USA drop five places in latest FIFA world rankings; England on the up

    Nov 27, 2014, 7:28 AM EST

    Ireland US Soccer AP

    Klinsmann’s men drop further in FIFA’s latest rankings.

  16. Arsene Wenger hails his team’s attitude, Sanogo and the path forward

    Nov 26, 2014, 10:30 PM EST

    FBL-EUR-C1-ARSENAL-ANDERLECHT-TRAINING Getty Images

    Wenger was in good spirits following his side’s victory that put an end to his two-match losing skid.

  17. Ross Barkley Divegate: Why Martinez defends him and what it means

    Nov 26, 2014, 9:50 PM EST

    Everton v West Ham United - Premier League Getty Images

    Yes, Barkley dove and yes, (news flash) Martinez is overly protective of his players.

Featured video

PST Extra: Top 4 showdowns on Sunday