SEATTLE – Real Salt Lake put an end to the Sounders five game unbeaten streak with a lone second half goal and a lock solid defensive display, holding the home side to 1-0 shut out defeat.
RSL came into Saturday’s match unbeaten in four games and with a history of raining on Seattle’s parade – they knocked the Rave Green out in the first round of play offs last season. Salt Lake hasn’t lost the last three regular season games at Century Link Field. Seattle was looking for fifteen points in fifteen games and an outright claim on first place in the Western Conference but RSL forward Fabian Espindola had other ideas.
Espindola’s fourth goal of the season came at the Sounders’ expense in the 51’, picking up a cross from Luis Gil and firing the ball left footed from twelve yards right past a helpless Bryan Meredith. It was the first goal allowed for Meredith, who set the third longest shut out streak to open an MLS career at 275 minutes.
The Sounders team on the pitch was the tenth different line up that coach Sigi Schmid has fielded this season, demonstrating the depth of the Seattle squad. Andy Rose, the young UCLA supplemental draft pick, got his third straight MLS start and Adam Johansson was back in defense for the injured Patrick Ianni. Defender Zach Scott was out with a retroactive one game suspension following the Wednesday Dallas game, opening up a place for Marc Burch.
Seattle had the upper hand for the majority of the first half, establishing a fluid attacking rhythm. The partnership of Johansson and Mauro Rosales on the right side created the majority of Seattle’s chances, their pace getting the ball thru into the area for the waiting Eddie Johnson. But of eight shots, none were on target.
“We had a few chances from distance in the first half that we didn’t take and then with Eddie, he got tied up in the Real defense taking maybe one too many step overs,” Schmid had to say after the match.
Second half substitutes Alvaro Fernandez 59’ and Cordell Cato 75’ helped to reinvigorate the Seattle attack as they continued to push for the equalizer. Fernandez had a run down the right side in the 73’ but wasn’t able to connect with a pass in front of goal for the shot. Cato, making only his second appearance for the Sounders, sent a cross into the box in the 87’ but it was punched away by RSL keeper Nick Rimando.
During the second half RSL coach Jason Kreis brought on a series of defensive midfielders including Johnny Steele in an effort to protect their lead. Salt Lake dug in with their signature physical style of play; they lead the league in fouls and yellow cards, closing out another win.
Seattle forward Johnson picked up a silly yellow card in the 53’ after heading the ball out of Rimando’s hands, who was taking his time lining up for a goal kick. Frustration and fatigue showed on the Sounders in the second half after an impressive series of five games in fifteen days. Seattle’s next match is in Vancouver on May 19, the first game of the 2012 Cascadia Cup.