Nov 7, 2012, 2:15 PM EDT
Who would have thought the most exciting much of this year’s playoffs would be a 0-0? So far, that’s the case, though it’s not a fair question. Not many postseason predictions posts have a place for Scoreline of the playoffs’ most exciting game. Even if somebody spends time thinking about such things, there aren’t many places to go on record.
But since Seattle and Real Salt Lake opened the semifinal round with a goalless thriller last Friday, the rest of Major League Soccer’s round of eight has been unable to replicate the drama. So between the scoreline, Nick Rimando’s heroics, the teams’ history (they also met in last year’s Western Conference semis), and the pure quality of these two MLS Cup contenders, it would be fair to call Thursday’s second leg at Rio Tinto highly anticipated.
And as with all second legs, there’s always on big, underlying question: What should we expect to change from the first leg.
Kickoff: 10:00 p.m. Eastern, Rio Tinto Stadium, NBC Sports Network
Series is tied, 0-0, after leg one
On Real Salt Lake
- Mission accomplished? On paper, yes. RSL got out of CenturyLink with a draw. What road team wouldn’t take that?
- But Friday’s outcome was less of a moral victory than a boxer absorbing a 12-round beating only to be bailed out by the judges. Sure, you take it, but in your heart, you know you got worked.
- That type of analogy completely ignores the fact that goalkeeper Nick Rimando is an RSL player, the team values counts on his performance, and you can’t just dissociate a goalkeeper’s contributions from the rest of the team’s when assessing the product (a mistake which, admittedly, I’ve done too often). Rimando has given other-worldly performances before. Who’s to say he won’t do so again on Thursday?
- Ideally, Jason Kreis won’t need any incredible performances to get a result, but that requires solving the midfield problem. RSL’s diamond was exploited down its left, an advantage that led to 30 open play crosses for Seattle.
- The midfield also failed to connect with Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola. Saborio scored twice in last year’s home leg, but on Friday, he didn’t get a good look until very late.
- Fabian Espindola, who left Friday’s match at halftime with a hamstring injury, is listed as probable. So is Ned Grabavoy (quad) and every RSL central defender: Jamison Olave (hamstring), Nat Borchers (quad), Chris Schuler (quad) and Kwame Watson-Siriboe (ankle). What’s with all the quad strains?
On the Seattle Sounders
- Seattle has injury concerns of their own, most notably with Mauro Rosales. The man responsible for so much of the work against RSL’s left limped from the field on Friday after tweaking a hamstring. But rest easy, SounderFan. Rosales didn’t even make the injury report.
- More good news: Eddie Johnson will be back. The U.S. international (and Seattle’s leading goalscorer during the regular season) didn’t even dress on Friday. His presence was sorely missed. It’s hard to believe Seattle doesn’t convert one of their myriad of crosses if one of the league’s greatest aerial threats is in the team. On Friday, Sigi Schmid made sure everybody knew: Eddie will be ready for Utah.
- Seattle’s only other injury concern is left back Leo Gonzalez, who missed game one with a hamstring strain. Veteran Marc Burch will probably get the call.
- Though the final score doesn’t show it, Seattle’s coming off one of their best performances of the season (the best game I’ve seen them play all year). One man’s extraordinary performance kept them from a lopsided win, so while a 0-0 result at home would normally lead to some tweaks, Schmid’s task for leg two is to keep his good thing going.
- That means exploiting the wide areas. Or, area. Seattle’s right side, manned by Rosales, proved a huge advantage on Friday. If Rosales is less than 100 percent or Kreis finds a solution, it’s not something Seattle’s likely to replicate on their left. There are only so many Mauro Rosaleses in the world.
- What would Plan B be? Any variety of options centering around Johnson. Or Fredy Montero. Or the play of Christian Tiffert and Osvaldo Alonso. You’d call it am embarrassment of riches, but general manager Adrian Hanauer and staff have no reason to blush about the job they’ve done.
- One of Hanauer’s more recent acquisitions, goalkeeper Michael Gspurning, received a lot of credit for his overshadowed Friday performance, but in a game where the little things could prove decisive, Gspurning will have to avoid replicating the first half giveaway that gifted RSL a chance at goal.
- Obligatory Seattle history references: They’ve never won a playoff series (0-for-3). In 2009, their first leg with Houston also ended scoreless, with the second leg requiring extra time after another goalless 90 minutes. Brian Ching scored in the 96th minute to end Seattle’s first MLS season.
- Seattle’s scored only three goals in 660 playoff minutes: 0.41 goals per game. That’s not bad. It’s terrible.
If Seattle plays like they did on Friday, they win most of the time. “Most” actually understates how good they were. The Sounders win nine out of 10 games playing at that level, which is why their history of playoff frustrations should matter little on Thursday. Keep doing what they’re doing, and Seattle moves on.
The ball is in Kreis’s court. His team is as predictable as they come in terms of set up and tactics. He always uses that narrow, diamond in midfield, and the team likes its short, controlled passing game – a plan that didn’t work on Friday. It failed miserably, but thanks to Nick Rimando, RSL’s was given a lifeline.
The extent to which they take advantage of that lifeline depends on Kreis’s changes.
May 6, 2015, 12:20 PM EDT
They’ll have their defender back, but they can’t have the match back, and that may be the most painful.
May 6, 2015, 11:40 AM EDT
The Galaxy have signed a young American midfielder to give them a spark.
May 6, 2015, 10:48 AM EDT
He could bring balance back to the Juventus midfield for the second leg.
May 6, 2015, 9:49 AM EDT
Oh dear. Ohhhhhh dear. We all know how this one ends. All over YouTube.
May 6, 2015, 9:26 AM EDT
“Dressed in black as always” Diego Simeone says all he wants to do is manage the teams he played for.
May 6, 2015, 8:22 AM EDT
Young Mateo got the surprise of a lifetime on what he though was another routine call with a doctor.
May 6, 2015, 7:50 AM EDT
Birmingham City confirmed Packwood’s early release from his contract to “possibly” join the Revolution, whatever that means.
May 5, 2015, 11:25 PM EDT
If you’d like your supporters group to be featured on future episodes of ‘I Was There’ simply send pictures/video to @NBCSportsSoccer or on NBC Sports Soccer on Facebook using the #IWasThere hashtag.
May 5, 2015, 10:46 PM EDT
Adam Jahn scored with his head while David Bingham made a big penalty stop to lead San Jose to all three points.
May 5, 2015, 9:43 PM EDT
Pep Guardiola faces his former club when Bayern Munich travels to Camp Nou to take on Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal matchup.
May 5, 2015, 8:58 PM EDT
The struggling Tottenham striker seems to have more problems than just scoring goals.
May 5, 2015, 7:45 PM EDT
The Real Madrid boss is confident his side can overcome the 2-1 deficit following a first leg defeat in Italy.
May 5, 2015, 6:56 PM EDT
Aliko Dangote has a net worth of nearly $16 billion, and he wants to use some of that cash to buy the Gunners.
May 5, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT
The duo won the Champions League together with Manchester United in 2008, and Patrice Evra thinks that gives them an edge with Juventus.
May 5, 2015, 5:05 PM EDT
The Italian champs take a slender lead to the Spanish capital with them after a classic European encounter.
May 5, 2015, 4:44 PM EDT
A second-half penalty from Carlos Tevez led Juventus to a big home win over Real Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals.
May 5, 2015, 4:16 PM EDT
CR7’s personal duel with Messi continues after grabbing his ninth UCL semifinal goal.
May 5, 2015, 3:36 PM EDT
The Reds’ striker will now begin his rehabilitation towards next season after a disappointing campaign riddled with injuries.
May 5, 2015, 3:04 PM EDT
The captain came to his team’s defense, but it ended up coming out quite awkward.
May 5, 2015, 2:15 PM EDT
The Italian champions welcome the reigning European champions to Turin for the first leg of their semifinal. Follow all the action live.
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