The Seattle Sounders overcame a shaky first half and settled down in the second half on their way to a scrappy 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake Sunday afternoon at CenturyLink Field in front of 50,022 fans who did their part to cheer the home side to its 8th consecutive playoff berth in eight years.
SOUNDERS TAKE EARLY LEAD
The Sounders looked to have the proverbial dream start to the match when Alvaro Fernandez slotted home a left-footed shot after a Jordan Morris between the legs pass that found the midfielder open in front of the RSL goal for the 1-0 lead after just three minutes.
LACK OF CONCENTRATION
A lack of concentration by the Sounders turned the dream start into a nightmare one minute later when RSL midfielder Luke Mulholland right-footed a shot from the left side of the box to level the score at 1-1. Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer was disappointed by his team’s lack of concentration.
“Well, I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t happy with it. It’s Soccer 101: After you score a goal, the next five minutes are critical. So we will definitely learn from that moment or hopefully, we will be able to find some coaching points to let them watch film tomorrow. But their resilience has been strong since I took over. We’ve come back on many different occasions from deficits, so allowing a team back in the game, okay, we didn’t like to do it, but we always have confidence that the team can persevere and find a way to manufacture another goal or another chance or something to help us be successful.”
PHYSICAL MATCH UP
With the score tied and a playoff berth on the line, the game turned and the result was 18 whistles in the next eleven minutes. The result was a choppy game with no rhythm and flow. The Sounders were able to get a foothold in the game by pushing Cristina Roldan upfield and causing RSL to send a player to track him and create room in the middle for Nicolas Lodeiro and Osvaldo Alonso to push the ball upfield and attack the RSL defense.
Seattle’s offensive push paid off in the 31st minuted when Cristian Roldan collected a loose ball off a Nicolas Lodeiro corner kick in the RSL goal mouth and rifled it home for the game-winner.
“I was put into the box to be a pest, to shield guys away from the big guys – Chad Marshall and Román (Torres). To pick for those guys and I was lucky enough to get away from my runner and kick the ball in the back of the net after a save,” Roldan said after the game of his game-winning goal.
SECOND HALF STALEMATE
The two sides played to a second half stalemate that resembled the latter part of the first half, which was a physical, choppy with very few scoring chances. While the game lacked creativity and offensive flare, it was a hard fought match between two determined teams according to RSL head coach Jeff Cassar.
“[Seattle] sat back a little more and gave us the ball in the back third and middle third. We started controlling the game and they were countering on us. It was kind of two different tactics – we had one in the first half and they had a different one in the second half. I thought it was a fantastic game played by both teams that came down to a dead ball situation, and we need to sharpen up on that.”
With the win, the Sounders finished fourth in the Western Conference and will host Sporting Kansas City Thursday Night 7:00 p.m. PT at CenturyLink Field.Real Salt Lake finished sixth in the conference and will travel to LA and play the LA Galaxy Wednesday night in LA 7:30 p.m .PT . The Galaxy finished third in the Western Conference.