With Seattle coming into Saturday night's game on perhaps an even hotter streak than RSL, it was anyone's guess how the battle at Rio Tinto Stadium would turn out. Turns out RSL is hotter. Kyle Beckerman put the Claret and Cobalt on top first with a 41st minute, perfectly weighted volley just outside the 6-yard box off a Seattle deflection.
A struggling Javier Morales came out in the second half to match the energy of his midfield partner Kyle Beckeman, who had been the dynamo at the heart of RSL during the entire first half, and helped Real put away Seattle with superb passing and terrific midfield defense. His pass in the 46th minute eventually turned into RSL's second goal when the recipient, Robbie Findley, sent a shot to Seattle keeper Michael Gspurning, only to fall to Alvaro Saborio, who then sent the ball into Findley. who didn't miss the second time.
Nick Rimando: Seattle had no shots on goal during the first half, and only one in the second. RSL's defense did its job, helping Rimando keep the clean sheet, but Rimando had a number of passes out of the box that made a difference in RSL's attack. That's why he's known as MLS' best offensive goalie.
Tactics: Kwame Watson-Siriboe had knee surgery to repair a torn ACL and will likely be out the rest of the season. With Chris Schuler still out with a foot injury, 19-year-old rookie Carlos Salcedo was called on to fill the central defense position left open by the injuries.
Chris Wingert was his stalwart self Saturday. Nothing spectacular, just good old blue-collar work and tons of grit.
Nat Borchers was matched up with Seattle veteran Eddie Johnson much of the night, and Johnson struggled to break away from Borchers' excellent marking. Borchers had clear air superiority against both Johnson and Obafemi Martins, who are both known for their physical strength and their abilities in the air.
Carlos Salcedo: At 19, Salcedo showed maturity beyond his years Saturday night. His decisions weren't flawless, but they were equal to the two top-tier forwards Seattle has manning its attack in Eddie Johnson and former EPL starter Obafemi Martins, matching every move they made with speed and positioning.
Tony Beltran played well box to box. His ability with his feet continues to be an important asset in RSL's attack, and Beltran is making better decisions defensively. He doesn't have the physical presence to match the likes of Obafemi Martins, but what he lacks in size, he showed in both speed and positioning.
Tactics: With Khari Stephenson on a hot streak, coach Jason Kreis couldn't keep him out of the starting 11.
Ned Grabavoy continues to play a much stronger role in the RSL attack this season than fans have seen in past years. His positioning continues to be much higher up the pitch, and his touch, especially in the attack, is as good as it's been in an RSL uniform. Saturday night was no exception.
Javier Morales started the game slow and his touch, especially on final passes in the attacking third, was off. Even his free kick in the 41st minute bent far lower than we're used to seeing from him. It's a good thing Kyle Beckerman was in the right place at the right time to put the deflected ball in for a goal. Morales' second half was a different game. His through ball on the run in the 46th minute to a perfectly placed Robbie Findley was sheer magic.
Kyle Beckerman's anticipation was excellent Saturday night. He seemed able to know where Seattle's mid-field was going before they did. Slide tackles, headers and overall positioning stopped numerous Seattle attacks and kept RSL in control much of the game. But it was his positioning in the 41st minute that put RSL on the scoreboard first when Beckerman was in the perfect place at the right time to volley home a Javier Morales free kick that was deflected off Seattle's Servando Carrasco in the wall. Between his defense, passing and goal-scoring, Beckerman was the clear Man of the Match.
Khari Stephenson's shot has been one of the major reasons Kreis has had him playing more of a role for RSL this season, but it was his defending and quality on the ball that made a difference Saturday night.
Sebastian Velasquez (Sub ’77): Velasquez's fresh legs along with Olmes Garcia gave RSL a nice boost in the end to keep both the pressure on and the clean sheet.
Yordany Alvarez (Sub ’89): Alvarez was brought on to waste time and to shore up RSL's defense in the final minutes.
Tactics: Alvaro Saborio is back in the starting lineup for the first time in more than two months. Kreis paired his hold-up play with the speed of Robbie Findley to start the game in hopes of keeping Seattle's defense on its heels.
Robbie Findley's speed was not easy for Jhon Kennedy Hurtado to track. The Seattle defender found himself chasing Findley down the left side all night long and usually Findley beat him to the ball. His touch was slightly off, like many of the other offensive players Saturday, and while he was able to make a few nice crosses from the touch-line, most were too far off the mark to have an impact. Fate smiled on Findley in the 46th minute when he found himself the recipient of a second chance. Javier Morales sent a perfectly weighted through ball into the box for Findley to pound right into Michael Gspurning's hands. Saborio was there for the rebound, but his shot ended up between Findley's feet. Findley turned and coolly finished things off by driving a right-footed shot cross-goal beyond Gspurning's reach.
Alvaro Saborio didn't miss a beat from when he last played for RSL two months ago. His national team duty lately has clearly paid dividends, and he was sharp Saturday night. Excellent hold-up play and very good passing out of the central field to find the speed and footwork of the likes of Ned Grabavoy and Robbie Findley. His rebound shot in the 46th minute turned into an assist when it landed at Robbie Findley's feet.
Olmes Garcia (Sub ’63): Garcia had an immediate impact with his speed when he entered Saturday night. Less than a minute after stepping onto the field, Garcia found the end of a through ball that Gspurning clearly thought he wouldn't catch up to. If not for Gspurning's lunge at the top of the 18-yard box, Garcia might have notched yet another second-half goal.