Real Salt Lake vs. Seattle Sounders FC scorecard: RSL has a leg up on visitors in key victory
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Seattle came into Saturday's Rio Tinto tilt having already played two games this week. The Sounders looked tired and lacked a step, while Salt Lake hit the ground running and never looked back, owning both possession and chances on goal all game long.
Joao Plata and Olmes Garcia seemed poised to manufacture a goal all game, with centimeter misses on shots and crosses to each other throughout the match.
Plata finally connected in the 53rd minute to put RSL on the scoreboard off a Luke Mulholland cross. Mulholland was rewarded four minutes later with a shot that ricocheted off Seattle's Osvaldo Alonso for RSL's second goal. It was officially called an own-goal for Seattle, but for all intents and purposes it was Mulholland's score and Plata's and Gil's assist.
Seattle came back with a goal of its own in the 73rd minute off a broken defensive play in the box to breathe some life back into the Seattle side. The final 15 minutes were tense as Seattle worked up just enough steam to put RSL's defense under the pressure it had failed to manufacture the rest of the game. The boys in Claret and Cobalt kept their cool and ended up walking out of Rio Tinto with the win and the lead in the West.
Nick Rimando was called upon to use his foot skills numerous times as a sort of sweeper-keeper with the likes of Kenny Cooper, Clint Dempsey and Brad Evans charging into the box. No problem for the former midfielder. His team put on a very good defensive effort in front of him Saturday. Unfortunately one of the shots ended up in the back of the net on a broken-down play in RSL's box.
Tactics: Chris Wingert and Tony Beltran are back on the back line after sitting out last Saturday's regular season game on yellow-card accumulation. Chris Schuler's foot is often a question mark late in the season, but he wasn't about to let it get in the way of perhaps RSL's most hotly anticipated home matchup of the season — he's at center back alongside Nat Borchers.
Nat Borchers was physical when he had to be and showed very good patience and vision bringing the ball out of the backfield. Most teams consider themselves in trouble when forced to build up play out of the backfield time-and-again. RSL makes it part of its game plan, with Borchers pulling the strings to link up with his midfielders.
Chris Schuler was matched up against Seattle's brawny striker, Kenny Cooper, much of the game Saturday. Schuler held his own, and in fact showed Cooper he was no one to be manhandled. On the occasion Clint Dempsey found himself matched up with Schuler, his positioning and surprising quick bursts of speed were enough to keep the creative striker just enough off balance to keep him from doing too much harm.
Chris Wingert ended up on the attack all during the first half on Saturday. He showed Seattle's wunderkind, and Tottenham signee, DeAndre Yedlin that smarts and skill can beat speed when deployed with veteran skill against youth. On the defensive end, Wingert ended up out of position a few times, thanks to his forward movement.
Tony Beltran picked up the second half where Chris Wingert left off from the first half, leading the offensive charge up the wing, this time from the right side. What Beltran lacked in visible contribution in the first half he made up for with excellent timing on his passes and threatening runs up the side that broke down the left side of the Seattle defense for RSL's two second-half goals. His defensive handling of Kenny Cooper, especially during the second half, was fun to watch, until Cooper burned him in the 73rd minute to put the ball into the box that gave Seattle its goal.
Carlos Salcedo ('89) subbed on for Chris Wingert.
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