The Seattle Sounders needed some kind of result as they took on Real Salt Lake on the road at Rio Tinto on Saturday. Real Salt Lake has been unstoppable at home, holding a 350-plus minute shutout stream and 29-match unbeaten streak ahead of Saturday’s game, leaving Seattle fans hoping for a draw. And after midfielder Alvaro Fernandez went down with a hamstring injury in the 17th minute, it looked like Seattle’s streak of disappointing play may continue.
Poor weather and poor play dominated the first half as the Seattle and Real Salt Lake played to a draw heading into the break. But in the second half, the Sounders finally caught a much-needed break as Mike Fucito was hauled down by Jamison Olave in the 58th minute, resulting in a red card for the Salt Lake defender. Playing with a man advantage, the Sounders were able to create a bit more space, opening up playing and giving Seattle chances on goal.
In the 72nd minute, after Fredy Montero had come on for Fucito, the Sounders drew first blood off a corner. Nate Jaqua headed the ball to Montero’s feet in the box, his poke neared the goal-mouth and Patrick Ianni was there to poke it through from just about a foot away to give Seattle the 1-0. Just 12 minutes later, Seattle struck again as Lamar Neagle unleashed a rocket shot from outside the 18-yard-box that hit the crossbar and bounced in, giving the Sounders a 2-0 lead.
For the final six minutes plus stoppage time, Seattle was forced to hang-on for dear life as Real Salt Lake pushed forward. Nelson Gonzalez cut the Seattle lead to one in the 87th minute with a goal of his own, creating a tense final few moments for Sounders fans. One final attempt from Real Salt Lake was all for naught as the referee whistled a foul and ended the game with the Sounders in front, 2-1.
The win was unexpected and much-needed after a tumultuous week in Seattle that saw the Sounders lose at home on Wednesday in a game that can only be described as ugly. Montero was ineffective then, drawing the ire of head coach Sigi Schmid in the post-game press conference. Yet on Saturday, Montero rebounded, working better in space and setting up the Sounders’ first goal. Kasey Keller was excellent as we’ve come to expect and saved all six Real Salt Lake shots on goal, including multiple difficult stops.
It doesn’t get much better than a road win at Rio Tinto against a tough Real Salt Lake squad. Dealing with adversity, the Sounders came through when it mattered most, and may have something to build off going forward.