Real Salt Lake faced many nervous moments on Wednesday 2nd Western Conference Semifinal Series second leg at Seattle Sounders FC, but, in the end, the Utah’s side 0-2 defeat on the evening was good enough to clinch a spot in the Western Conference Championship, courtesy of a 3-2 aggregate series win.
Real Salt Lake now must play the waiting game to see who its opponent will be with a spot to MLS Cup 2011 on the line, as the Utahns will play the winner of tomorrow night’s decisive leg between the Los Angeles Galaxy and New York Red Bulls at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. (LA leads series 1-0; 9:00 p.m. MT, live on ESPN2). Should the Galaxy hold serve, RSL will travel to Southern California for a MLS Cup 2009 rematch on Sunday, Nov. 6, while a Red Bulls win would set up a 2008 Western Conference Final rematch at Rio Tinto Stadium on Monday, Nov. 7.
After the Real Salt Lake offense did the heavy lifting in last Saturday’s first leg in Sandy, it was Seattle’s turn to push the play, and homestanding Sounders FC obliged by out-shooting the visitors 26-4 on the night. However, it would take awhile for Seattle to chip away at RSL’s three-goal cushion, as the Utah side kept its advantage through the halftime break. RSL DF Tony Beltran’s goalline clearance of Seattle DF Jeff Parke’s volley in the 36th minute highlighted RSL’s defensive stand in the opening 45 minutes, allowing the squad to breathe somewhat easily heading into the interval.
The second half was a different story, as Seattle moved the scoreboard from the penalty spot in the 56th minute following a handball call inside the penalty area, MF Osvaldo Alonso drilling the spot kick up the middle and under GK Nick Rimando to give the home side some life. The series outcome started to edge towards uncertainly just five minutes later, when Seattle MF Lamar Neagle slotted a low effort into the far right-side netting, putting the visitors on full alert in their attempt to take the series after 180 minutes of regulation. RSL FW Fabian Espíndola nearly gave RSL some space with a breakaway attempt in the 79th minute, but his near-sided shot was knocked away by Seattle GK Kasey Keller at his left post, marking the veteran netminder’s lone save on the evening.
That would be the last quality chance for either side, as Real Salt Lake put the home side on lockdown during the last 10 minutes of regulation and five minutes of stoppage time, pushing the Claret-and-Cobalt through to the brink of MLS Cup 2011.