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Seattle at Real Salt Lake: Report card

By Chris Higbee

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, May 29 2011 1:07 p.m. MDT

Driving rain, a questionable red card, unlucky bounces and a loss didn't keep Real Salt Lake from playing one of its best games of the year Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium. But two major records were cracked Saturday night by a persistent Seattle side who stopped the clock on Nick Rimando's shutout streak at 409 minutes and Real's MLS home unbeaten streak at 2 years and 12 days.

Nick Rimando: The recent USMNT call up couldn't keep the clean sheet streak alive, but not for lack of trying. He showed his mettle on two terrific saves before Seattle broke through on a set piece in the 73rd minute that was more the result of poor marking from his defense than anything he might have done. Lamar Neagle's shot in the 84th minute was unsavable. Grade: A-

Robbie Russell: Russell was stalwart enough until his poor marking on Seattle's Patrick Ianni in the 73rd minute let in Seattle's first goal and with Olave out, RSL Coach Jason Kreis was forced to sub out Russel in favor of midfielder Nelson Gonzalez to try to mount a counter attack. Grade B-

Jamison Olave: Jamison Olave's last red card came in September of 2009. But that streak ended Saturday night as well. Head referee Mark Kadlecik booked him straight red for taking down Seattle's Mike Fucito just outside the box on a questionable call since Fucito still had Borchers to beat before he could have taken a shot. As it was, Olave did lose his mark and was forced to tackle Fucito from behind. Grade: B-

Nat Borchers: Borchers played his position well Saturday night but the back line could have used more leadership from the veteran central defender, especially inside the box on the corner kick that changed the game. Grade: B+

Tony Beltran: Beltran was perhaps the strongest part of the defensive line Saturday night. His speed and passing ability were key to a number of dangerous build-ups out of the backfield. Grade: A-

Ned Grabavoy: Ned shrugged off the weight of filling in for Javier Morales around the 20th minute and from that point on created numerous opportunities for RSL. His impact was felt in the short passing penetration game but could have been bigger had Grabvoy turned his attention goalward a time or two. One big question, could he have been better placed to keep Ianni from scoring? Probably not. Grade: B+

Kyle Beckerman: Kyle Beckerman's control on the ball was nearly perfect Saturday night in the tight spaces he's usually asked to work in. And this despite a soaked Rio Tinto pitch and a slick ball. His distribution both across the field and through it kept Seattle on its heels most of the night despite leading the whole game. Grade: A

Andy Williams: Andy really struggled to maintain possession in the central midfield with Seattle swarming to the ball every time he touched it. Too often he was a step late and a dollar short. Good thing Williams doesn't know the meaning of the word quit, as his dogged determination kept him from succumbing to the miscues and he finished the night better than he started it. Grade: B-

Will Johnson: Johnson wins the iron man award for his effort Saturday night. Not only was he everywhere but he took a beating all night from the Seattle defenders and kept coming. He nearly equalized late in the game when the ball bounced to him in the 6 yard box which he promptly rocket-volleyed right back to Seattle goalkeeper Casey Keller. Grade: A

Jean Alexandre: The big Haitian "played OK" in the words of his coach, Jason Kreis. That was being generous. He certainly reminded fans why Alvaro Saborio is the starter since he was unable to duplicate his teammates ability to hold up the ball in traffic or make solid one-touch passes with his back to goal. Grade: C

Fabian Espindola: Fabi has played some of his best soccer since losing to Monterrey in the CCL finals, too bad he doesn't have a goal to show for it. That nearly changed in the 48th minute but Seattle's Kasey Keller parried his grade-A crack away. Espindola remained dangerous all night and proved why he's RSL's best striker so far this season. He's due for a goal soon. Grade: A

Chris Wingert: Chris Wingert's biggest impact in the game was a negative one when he was handed a yellow card for a clumsy tackle just three minutes after entering the game. From that point on he played tentatively and though he wasn't a liability RSL missed his aggressiveness, especially on counter attacks. Grade: B-

Nelson Gonzalez: Gonzalez was the spark Real needed. Too bad it was too late. From the second his cleats hit the field he shredded Seattle's tired defense wherever he got the ball and finally finished in the 88th minute on a nifty slip shot across the face of the goal after turning his defender with ease. Man of the Match. Grade: A

Luis Gil: He only played four minutes but the first thing he did was assist Nelson Gonzalez on Real's only goal of the game. With RSL's roster thinning even more in the coming weeks with Gold Cup call-ups, expect to see more from the youngster. Grade: A

Chris Higbee is the Product Director for DeseretNews.com. He can be found @chigbee on Twitter.

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