SEATTLE — Real Salt Lake’s main objective when it stepped on the pitch Wednesday night inside CenturyLink Field was to at least get a point.
By doing so, the club knew it would position itself to have its fate in its own hands next week when the jockeying for MLS Cup playoff positioning comes to an end and all playoff seeding will be determined.
From that perspective, RSL was happy to walk off the pitch here after battling to a 0-0 draw against Seattle in front of 38,356 fans.
With the result, Real Salt Lake stayed in second place — three points ahead of Seattle and six points ahead of Los Angeles in MLS’ Western Conference. With San Jose locked into first place in the West, RSL, Seattle and L.A. are essentially battling one another to finish second or third and avoid finishing fourth and having a wild-card game.
However, while it was pleased to get a point, RSL also walked off the artificial turf here knowing it could have had even more.
Indeed, Real played up a man for 60 minutes after Seattle defender Zach Scott was red-carded after receiving a second yellow card in the 30th minute, and RSL could have easily wound up with three points instead of one point in one of the league’s most difficult venues.
“One point was our baseline objective coming into the night,” said RSL coach Jason Kreis. “We felt like if we could get one point we could control our own destiny in the last week of the season and we don’t have to play a wild-card game. I’m pleased with that.
“I’m also a bit of a perfectionist and look at it and say to be up a man for 60-some-odd minutes, we probably should have scored a goal to win the game.”
RSL’s best chances to win came late.
Salt Lake had huffed and puffed throughout Wednesday’s highly anticipated contest, but despite working extremely hard and playing well defensively, the club struggled to carve out many clear-cut chances.
In stoppage time, however, the club had two golden opportunities to walk away with all three points.
First, substitute defender Chris Schuler — of all people — found himself in an advanced position and struck an excellent shot that was denied by Seattle ‘keeper Michael Gspurning.
Moments later, fellow substitute Sebastian Velasquez had a shot from the right side ricochet off the legs of Seattle defender Andy Rose and off a completely unaware Gspurning before squirting just inches wide of Seattle’s right post and out for a corner kick.
Kreis credited Seattle for staying compact defensively leading up to those late two chances, and RSL captain Kyle Beckerman said afterward three points just didn’t seem to be in the cards.
“We would have liked to get three, but it just wasn’t going to happen,” said Beckerman.
As it turned out, Scott’s first-half sending off set the stage for most of what followed.
In the 30th minute, Scott collided with RSL’s Javier Morales and took him down after the ball had already gone. Referee Ricardo Salazar showed Scott a yellow card — his second of the match — leaving the home Sounders to play a man down for the final hour.
Seattle’s sold-out crowd lustily chanted “Salazar sucks” on two occasions late, but afterward, Kreis said he felt the sending off was deserved.
“The sending off was right in front of me, and I thought it was a straight red card,” he said. “I don’t think there was any question about it. It was a very, very dangerous tackle that stopped an attacking chance. So for me, no decision necessary there.”
RSL now returns home from a do-or-die Champions League game against Herediano next Tuesday before wrapping up the regular season Saturday against Vancouver.
And RSL does know it’s in prime position to finish in second.
“We would have liked to have gotten the points but it was really important to not give up any goals,” said Beckerman. “We’re above them in the standings, so we keep it that way for another game.”
ENDLINES: RSL striker Paulo Jr. was a late scratch for Wednesday’s game because of a foot injury he sustained a day earlier, club officials said. Emiliano Bonfigli made his first MLS career start in Paulo’s absence. ... David Viana made his RSL debut after entering as a late substitute for Luis Gil. Eddie Johnson, whom RSL allowed to travel back on RSL’s charter plane with Nick Rimando and Beckerman after U.S. National team duty in a widely publicized move, didn’t even make the bench Wednesday.
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