SEATTLE — Despite playing down a man for nearly an hour yet again, Real Salt Lake beat the Seattle Sounders 2-1 on the road Saturday for the first time in team history to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff race.
In their previous two visits against the Sounders RSL had troubles getting onto the scoreboard, but an own-goal from Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller early in the match and a blast from Alvaro Saborio were enough to give Salt Lake the historic victory and needed three points.
Salt Lake opened the scoring early when Keller steered a low-driven ball from Fabian Esipindola into the back of the net in the 13th minute. Espindola fired a shot toward the back post that Keller appeared to have covered.
However, as the Seattle goalkeeper tumbled on the ground the ball came loose and settled in the back of the net for an own goal.
"From where I was sitting I thought that it must be on the outside of the net," said RSL coach Jason Kries. "It's one of those where everyone thinks is it a goal or not. And then I look again and the ball is in the net."
Just three minutes later the Sounders were given a chance to equalize from the penalty spot after Robbie Russell brought down Mike Fucito in the penalty area.
Seattle's Mauro Rosales stepped up and, luckily for RSL, sent his shot skipping just wide of the post.
In the 20th minute RSL defender Tony Beltran received a yellow card for an aggressive challenge on James Riley. The caution proved costly for Salt Lake as RSL was reduced to 10 men 15 minutes later when Beltran was shown his second yellow card for a foul on Rosales.
Playing with 10 men is a situation RSL has experienced several times this season, and coach Jason Kreis said his team responded appropriately.
"Going down a man I think the guys had a really good idea of what was expected of them," said Kreis, "and they handled that situation really well.
"It meant that we had to deal with a lot of service into our box. But, when we have Olave, Borchers and Schuler in the box we like our chances in there."
The man disadvantage lasted only four minutes before Seattle lost a man due to a red card shown to Seattle's Jhon Kennedy Hurtado for putting his arm in the face of Saborio as the RSL striker attempted to turn the defender.
It was a call that even Kreis felt was harsh on the Seattle defender.
"I didn't feel that their player elbowed Saborio on purpose," said Kreis.
"His elbow may have been up. I just think the referee kind of made some bad decisions and then was trying to work his way back into that game."
For much of the rest of the first half Salt Lake had a hard time holding onto the ball and the defense absorbed intense pressure from the Sounders until Seattle evened the score at 1-1 on a goal from Freddy Montero just before the break.
The second half opened with Seattle seeing a lot of the ball early on. But Kreis pointed out that once RSL settled down and held onto the ball, more good things happened.
"At the beginning of the second half ... we just weren't keeping the ball," said Kreis. "For me, we needed to get a hold of the ball, and keep it and be more patient. When we started to do that we started to get a little bit of success and we score the goal."
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That goal came in the 56th minute after Saborio collected the rebound of his initial shot and rifled a powerful shot into the far side netting.
A little more luck came into play late in the game to help RSL keep the lead.
In the 69th minute Nick Rimando's face kept out a rocket from six yards out off the foot of Wahl.
"I didn't see it," said Rimando. "I just tried to get in the right position and the ball hit me."
With the win Salt Lake gains a valuable three points to keep in fourth place and within 10 points of the league-leading Los Angeles Galaxy in the Western Conference playoff race.