Ted S. Warren, AP
In a heated battle for the top spot in the Major League Soccer standings, Real Salt Lake fell behind the Seattle Sounders early and never recovered, falling 2-0 in front of a crowd of more than 50,000 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.
It took only three minutes for Real Salt Lake to give up its first goal when Seattle striker Obafemi Martins streaked through the RSL penalty area largely uncontested and finished off a low cross, giving goalkeeper Nick Rimando no chance from close range.
“To give away a goal three minutes in off what started as a throw in was not good enough tonight,” said RSL head coach Jason Kreis. “We weren’t tight enough with Martins, who was allowed to turn the ball 24 yards out and when the cross comes in and he runs in unmarked.”
The Real Salt Lake defense remained under pressure early, absorbing the frantic pressure from the home side. Rimando helped to keep RSL’s deficit at one with a diving save in the seventh minute off a close-range header from Seattle’s Lamar Neagle.
Following Rimando’s save, Real Salt Lake put together its first attack of the game, which resulted in a slow rolling chance that was gathered in by Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning.
RSL settled into a bit of a rhythm during the middle of the first half, stringing passes together and keeping possession more in Seattle’s end of the field.
During one of these stretches of possession, Chris Wingert sent a penetrating pass between two Seattle defenders that was gathered in by Javier Morales in the Seattle penalty area. Just as Morales controlled the ball, he was brought down hard by the Sounders’ Osvaldo Alono.
No foul was called, and play only stopped after Ned Grabavoy played the ball over the sideline so that Morales could receive medical attention.
Morales would later receive the game’s first yellow for bringing Neagle down at midfield, stopping a Seattle breakaway.
Real Salt Lake’s best chance of the opening half came in the 31st minute on a shot from Joao Plata. The speedy striker persistently pushed his way through a couple of Seattle defenders before shaving the outside of the post on a low drive from just inside the penalty area.
The score got worse for RSL in the 38th minute when an uncontested cross from the left side of the RSL defense found a streaking Neagle open in front of goal. The Seattle striker took a single touch to beat Rimando from just outside the six.
It was a similar goal to the first, where Real Salt Lake allowed a runner to connect on a low cross in front of goal, with little defensive pressure.
A bouncing ball into the box in the 41st minute sliced through much of the Real Salt Lake defense, and appeared to be headed for Neagle. But RSL central defender Carlos Salcedo was there to put the Sounder striker off his stride.
A change at halftime brought Olmes Garcia onto the field, in place of Luis Gil.
In the 54th minute, Rimando stonewalled Neagle on a breakaway to keep Seattle from increasing its lead. With no help between him and the oncoming Seattle attacker, Rimando stood his ground until Neagle took his shot before Rimando pounced and parried the shot out of danger.
A high arching cross from Garcia in the 68th minute forced a punch from Gspurning in front of a congested goal. The clearance fell to the feet of Grabavoy, who sent his chance well wide of the mark.
Real Salt Lake’s most dangerous scoring chance in the second half came in the 80th minute when a Morales free kick was flicked on goal by a leaping Borchers. Gspurning took a hop toward the goal when he caught it, but was able to keep the ball from crossing the line.
The final 10 minutes kept the Real Salt Lake defense busy as it stifled several attacks from the home side.
Borchers was able to chase down Martins, who was charging in on the Real Salt Lake goal. The Seattle attacker looked all but in on Rimando before Borchers got a touch on the ball and knocked it away.
“It was a nice ball over the top, and I had a feeling that Martins was going to take his time, so I just chased him back,” Borchers said. “Fortunately, I didn’t hit it into my own goal.”
In the following minute, Kyle Beckerman was positioned perfectly to head away a strike from fellow U.S. International player Clint Dempsey.
The loss puts RSL in second place in the Western Conference as it prepares to take on the San Jose Earthquakes next Saturday at home.
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