SEATTLE — Real Salt Lake was unable to take advantage of playing the final 60 minutes with an extra player and could only manage a 0-0 draw with the Seattle Sounders on Wednesday night in a potential MLS Cup playoff preview.
Seattle played the final hour of the match down a man after defender Zach Scott was issued a second yellow card and sent off in the 30th minute. Scott was issued his second card for a reckless tackle on Salt Lake midfielder Javier Morales.
There were very few scoring chances in the match, but Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning saved the draw for the Sounders in the final moments. He first punched Chris Schuler's shot wide of the goal, then off a scramble in the box kept Sebastian Velasquez's deflected shot out of the net.
The sides remained separated by three points in the Western Conference standings, but with Seattle having an extra game remaining and the chance at three additional points in the playoff race.
Seattle (53 points) hosts FC Dallas on Sunday then closes the regular season on Oct. 28 at Los Angeles.
Salt Lake (56 points) closes its season on Oct. 27 hosting Vancouver. If the sides finish tied on points, the first tiebreaker in playoff seeding is total goals scored where Seattle holds a slight advantage.
The Sounders are also closely looking behind at the Galaxy, who are fourth three points back of Seattle.
Real Salt Lake is unbeaten in its past four regular season matches in Seattle and did not concede a goal to the Sounders in three matchups during the season.
Both teams were thinned by World Cup qualifiers. Seattle played without leading scorer Eddie Johnson after he went nearly the entire match in the U.S. national team's 3-1 win over Guatemala on Tuesday night. They were also minus midfielder Mario Martinez (Honduras) and defender Adam Johansson (Sweden) following their international duties.
Salt Lake was without leading scorer Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica) and midfielder Will Johnson (Canada). But the two RSL players coming back from duty with the U.S., midfielder Kyle Beckerman and goalkeeper Nick Rimando, both started. Beckerman and Rimando did not play in the two U.S. victories over Antigua and Barbuda and Guatemala.
Scott's second yellow from referee Ricardo Salazar came when he took down Morales about 35 yards from net. It was clearly a foul on Scott but Salazar believed it was excessive and Seattle was left with just 10 men.
Salazar was already the subject of significant Seattle ire after calls he made in the U.S. Open Cup final that Sporting Kansas City won in a penalty shootout over the Sounders. Salazar received more complaints when just before the halftime whistle, Seattle was begging for a handball in the box on Salt Lake defender Tony Beltran but no call was made. Replays confirmed the ball hit Beltran in the chest.
That didn't stop Seattle coach Sigi Schmid from criticizing Salazar during halftime.
"It's just a nightmare for us when he referees," Schmid said on the television broadcast.