As expected, this was far from the most attractive game in MLS history.Real Salt Lake and the Seattle Sounders have been evenly matched all season, and tonight was no different. As the game wore on and the home side continued to press forward, the Sounders were quite clearly on the back foot. But just as it would appear as though Real Salt Lake had taken control, Mario Martinez broke through with an absolutely stunning goal to put the Sounders through to the next round with their first ever playoff victory.
The first hour of the contest was largely unremarkable, with each side doing little in the way of crafting chances or effecting the game in any meaningful way. But from the 60 minute mark onwards, RSL took control of the game and peppered the Sounders goal with half chances, and with key Sounders faltering it increasingly looked as though Seattle's season would once again end in disappointment.
Until Mario Martinez came along. The Sounders once-forgotten midfield acquisition ran onto a ball from Frey Montero and hit a wicked first-time volley into the far corner past a lunging Nick Rimando to put the Sounders ahead. From there it was gut-check time for the Sounders, but despite a few major pushes from the home side Michael Gspurning and the resolute Sounders back line would not falter, and Seattle would persevere, winning their first ever playoff series and setting up a date with the LA Galaxy in the Western Conference finals.
No matter what happens from here on out, the Sounders have now gotten over a monumental hump and advanced farther into the postseason that ever before. Despite a 1-0 loss to the Galaxy that bumped them all the way down to 7th in the overall MLS standings, the Sounders have bested LA by a count of 6-1 this season and will likely enter into this series on a significant high. The path to MLS Cup final is still difficult, but it has ever been clearer; we're into unknown territory now, and this is a team thatlooks capable of taking on (and dispensing with) any of the remaining opposition.