Unbeaten no more: Real Salt Lake beaten soundly in Seattle
Ted S. Warren, AP
SEATTLE — Real Salt Lake knew days like this were inevitable.
As the club raced out to a 12-game unbeaten streak at the beginning of this 2014 season — a feat only accomplished by three other teams in Major League Soccer history — RSL players and coaches repeatedly pointed out that they knew they would be defeated at some point.
That “some point” turned out to be Saturday afternoon.
With no clouds in sight on a sun-drenched day in the Pacific Northwest, the Seattle Sounders gleefully handed RSL its first loss of 2014.
Gonzalo Pineda scored a highly disputed penalty kick near the end of the first half to put the Sounders in front, and Marco Pappa, Chad Barrett and Obafemi Martins all added goals in the second half as Seattle convincingly beat Salt Lake 4-0 Saturday afternoon in the much-anticipated battle of No. 1 and No. 2 in the MLS standings.
“It just wasn’t our day,” said RSL coach Jeff Cassar, who suffered his first defeat as the club’s head coach.
At the end of Saturday’s proceedings, which were contested with both sides missing players because of the upcoming World Cup and RSL opting to keep some players off the artificial surface at CenturyLink Field, Seattle moved five points clear of Salt Lake atop the standings, though RSL does have a game in hand.
Very ironically, the man responsible for arguably putting the Sounders on the path to victory was referee Ricardo Salazar.
The veteran MLS official, who was taunted by Sounders fans with chants of “Salazar sucks” when he officiated a game here between RSL and Seattle two years ago, has a long history of giving decisions against Seattle.
On this occasion, however, his choice to point to the spot near the end of an evenly balanced first half put the Sounders in front.
Seattle crossed the ball into the box from the right side in the 41st minute, and it was headed down by Barrett into a dangerous position. It appeared RSL had dealt with the danger when RSL defender Nat Borchers got his head on the ball and it rolled toward RSL goalkeeper Jeff Attinella.
However, just as Attinella started to clutch the ball, Lamar Neagle poked it away. Neagle and RSL defender Aaron Maund jockeyed for the ball, with Maund’s shoulder connecting with Neagle’s shoulder as Maund touched the ball with his foot and Neagle tumbled to the ground.
Salazar quickly pointed to the spot, and — despite the strong objections from several RSL players who believed Maund’s challenge was completely legal — Pineda calmly dispatched the ensuing penalty kick into the left side of the net.
Seattle never looked back.
Pappa scored a majestically taken free kick seven minutes into the second half, and the Sounders added two more goals to coast to victory.
Afterward, Borchers didn’t try to hide what he thought of the PK call — and Salazar’s decision to award the free kick that led to Pappa’s goal.
“They were gifted two goals by Ricardo — no question about that,” said Borchers.
“I think we’ll all agree that it’s not a PK,” Borchers added. “It’s tough. I feel like we’ve gotten a lot of pretty good bounces this year, and so you have to expect a few bad ones. But you expect the bad ones to be a little closer to the right side than a blatantly obvious not a penalty kick.”
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