SEATTLE - The Sounders FC and Real Salt Lake have developed a penchant for last second dramatics.
In their previous meeting April 10 at Rio Tinto Stadium, RSL scored a stoppage time goal to turn a Sounders FC win into a 2-2 draw.
Thursday night at Qwest Field, it looked like the tables would be turned as Steve Zakuani raced up the left side with the ball, bearing down on Salt Lake goalkeeper Kyle Reynish. With just one defender to beat, Zakuani got just outside the box and pulled up, dejectedly swinging at the ball with his right foot.
The final whistle had blown and any chance of a third stoppage-time winner for the Sounders was squashed as the game ended in a scoreless draw.
“It was frustrating - a bad evening,” Zakuani said. “The game never really got going. I think we played more an emotional game than with our heads because we really wanted to win.”
The emotion reached its peak after 30 minutes when Robbie Findley earned a penalty, getting some space in the box before being tripped up by Jeff Parke.
“I slipped and got up and as I got up I lunged in. I saw that he was ready to poke it and as he poked it, I just stopped. A good striker, like he was, just drug his feet into me,” Parke said. “It was a good play by him and a dumb play by me. It’s my mistake.”
However, that emotion turned a moment later when Findley stepped into the penalty kick and Kasey Keller dove to his right to smother the shot for the save, a pivotal moment after a 3-1 loss to the New England Revolution where the Sounders came undone after allowing a soft goal.
“Penalty saves are penalty saves. You hope you go the right way, you hope he puts it somewhere you can save it. Today he did that, which was nice,” Keller said. “It was great to be able to come up with that save at that time.”
On the offensive side, Seattle wasn’t able to grab the opportunities that propelled them to a seven-game unbeaten streak, but still got some quality chances from Osvaldo Alonso. He had a pair of blasts from just outside the box late in the first half, putting one into Reynish’s chest and another just right of the goal.
“I think we battled and we fought, but I don't think we played great soccer tonight so it was a little disappointing from that regard because I know we have more in us,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “For whatever reason all of our passing was disjointed and we didn't click in that regard. I’m still proud of the fact that we’ve played what’s probably the best team in the league twice now and have tied them twice. But I know we’re capable of better soccer and I don’t think we played as well tonight as we could have.”
The draw moved the Sounders FC to 9-9-6 on the year and pulled them one point ahead of the San Jose Earthquakes in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. Salt Lake, meanwhile, moved even with the LA Galaxy atop the Western Conference at 12-4-8.
It was the second straight scoreless draw for Real Salt Lake, extending their defenses scoreless streak to 442 minutes. It was also their second straight scoreless draw on the road.
“Teams are going to come here and really make it difficult for us because they respect what we’ve done here and what this crowd is like,” Keller said. “We could have done a little more today, but it’s definitely not the end of the world.”
Seattle will move into a hectic portion of their schedule that will see them travel to Costa Rica, Columbus, Mexico and Chicago to play CONCACAF Champions League matches and MLS matches over the next two weeks. Their next match is Tuesday night in San Jose, Costa Rica, against Saprissa.
Sounders FC - Kasey Keller, Zach Scott, Jeff Parke, Patrick Ianni, Leo Gonzalez, Alvaro Fernandez (Sanna Nyassi 74), Osvaldo Alonso, Nathan Sturgis (Mike Seamon 85), Steve Zakuani, Fredy Montero, Nate Jaqua (Mike Fuctio 70).
Real Salt Lake - Kyle Reynish, Tony Beltran, Nat Borchers, Chris Schuler, Chris Wingert, Nelson Gonzalez (Will Johnson 65), Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Andy Williams, Robbie Findley (Pablo Campos 89), Alvaro Saborio.