Another year in the MLS Playoffs, another drought of scoring for the Seattle Sounders FC. This isn’t surprising really, at least not against Real Salt Lake. The two teams played to a scoreless draw both times they faced off in the regular season.
The home leg of the two match playoff series for Seattle had the faithful fans loud and proud during the walk to the stadium and kept them standing until the final whistle. It was another amazing display from Sounders fans to the rest of the league that the loudest and strongest support comes from the Pacific Northwest.
The passions ran strong throughout the 90+ minutes. Towards the end, RSL players reverted to the time wasting tactics that led to a lot of pushing and shoving after the final whistle. I hate those tactics but understand them. Salt Lake had held the Sounders to a tie heading back home for the second match.
The Sounders understood that this was their best chance to set the tone. Now they have to go on the road and win a playoff game, something they haven’t done yet. It won’t be easy. Although Seattle looked slightly stronger overall, both teams attacked strongly and looked dangerous.
The difference maker on the night was Real Salt Lake goal keeper Nick Rimando and Sounders keeper Michael Gspurning. Rimando had a once in a lifetime performance, repeatedly making amazing stops, even getting bloodied and battered in the 66th minute.
It happened when Rimando got in the middle of a battle between Sounders player Christian Tiffert and RSL player Kyle Beckerman as they fought for position to get under a Mauro Rosales cross. He took an elbow to his temple and stayed down for about five minutes. The trainers managed to stop the blood flow and keep Rimando in the game despite a swelling eye.
Gspurning was not to be outdone though, making four saves. His best came in the 38th minute on a Will Johnson shot. Gspurning made a quick left handed save that was pure reflexes.
The best sequence came in the 33rd minute when Rimando made amazing saves on back to back to corners for the Sounders. The first corner forced him to stop a Sammy Ochoa header. Rimando barely pushed the ball over the crossbar. In the second Rimando had to dive to rob Jhon Kennedy Hurtado’s effort.
The Sounders missed Eddie Johnson, out with a hamstring injury suffered in the last match of the season. I felt that his presence would have been the difference maker; although how Rimando played, they could have had Pele and Messi out there and still not scored.
The series moves to Salt Lake City for the deciding match on November 8th. The challenge facing Seattle is to win both their first road playoff game and their first playoff series.
Photo credits: Jane Gershovich twitter.com/janegphoto