SANDY, UTAH - The Sounders FC is starting to make a habit out of snapping long-standing undefeated streaks.
On October 3, 2009, Roger Levesque scored his first career MLS goal and the Sounders ended the Columbus Crew’s home unbeaten string at 22 matches.
Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium, they did the same to Real Salt Lake, bringing and end to a 29-match home unbeaten streak with a 2-1 victory over a ten-man RSL squad.
Patrick Ianni scored his first goal of the season and Lamar Neagle scored the first of his MLS career, while Kasey Keller finished with five crucial saves to preserve the win to lift the Sounders to 5-4-5 on the season.
“It’s something we’re proud of,” head coach Sigi Schmid said. “It’s something we talked about before the game - that we wanted to try and be the team that ended the streak. RSL has been a great team at home and they’re a very, very good team, so we’re very happy with the fact that we were able to win.”
The team’s played to a scoreless first half, but not without some excitement from Keller in the 19th minute. First, Jean Alexandre - who was playing forward in place of CONCACAF Gold Cup-bound Arturo Alvarez and Alvaro Saborio - ripped a shot from distance that forced Keller to make a diving stop. Then Will Johnson blasted a shot from 28 yards that found its way into the arms of Keller for another save.
In the second half, the action picked up.
Keller came up big again in the 51st minute when Johnson had a long-range shot deflected into the air. It found the head of defender Jamison Olave, who flicked it toward the net only to have Keller spear it with his hand and parry it into the crossbar. Seattle cleared the ball and avoided falling behind to a strong Salt Lake team.
In the 58th minute, Seattle caught a huge break when Mike Fucito spun around Olave, forcing the 2010 MLS Defender of the Year to pull Fucito down from behind 19 yards from the net. Olave was issued a red card for denying a goal-scoring opportunity and the Sounders would play the rest of the match with a man-advantage.
They would utilize that edge in the 71st minute.
After winning a corner kick, Tyson Wahl sent the ball into the box to an on-coming Nate Jaqua. His header controlled the ball to Fredy Montero, whose poke was going toward the side-netting, but Ianni wanted to be sure it found the net, so he punched it home for the 1-0 lead.
“Tyson whipped in a good ball, like he’s been doing for a few games now. Fredy got a touch on it, but I wasn’t sure if it was going to go in, so I just wanted to be sure,” Ianni said. “It popped out to me, so I had to finish it.”
The goal snapped a 409-minute shutout streak for Real Salt Lake, but the Sounders weren’t finished there.
In the 84th minute, Neagle dribbled into space from 24 yards out and rifled a ball past Nick Rimando, hitting it off the crossbar and the post before finding the net for his career MLS goal, giving the Sounders the 2-0 lead.
“I had a lot of room and I saw their back backing off me. I looked up and saw Rimando in the middle of the goal, so I just tried to bend it to the outside and it ended up working out,” said Neagle, who subbed into the game unexpectedly in the 18th minute when Alvaro Fernandez suffered a strained right hamstring.
With the 2-0 lead, the Sounders appeared to have the game in hand. However, they knew not to count out an RSL team that came back with a stoppage time equalizer to take away a 2-1 lead against Seattle just last season.
In the 88th minute, Nelson Gonzalez reeled the Sounders in to 2-1, sliding a shot past Keller for his first goal. However, Keller was able to hold off any more goal-scoring threats and the Sounders got a much-needed victory.
“Every three points - especially that you can steal in away games - are huge for any point in the season,” Neagle said. “It was really good for us.”
The Sounders will take to the road again next weekend when they face the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park.
Sounders FC - Patrick Ianni (Fredy Montero, Nate Jaqua) 71; Lamar Neagle (Tyson Wahl) 84.
Real Salt Lake - Nelson Gonzalez (Luis Gil) 88.
Sounders FC - James Riley (caution) 81; Tyson Wahl (caution) 90.
Real Salt Lake - Will Johnson (caution) 27; Jamison Olave (ejection) 58; Chris Wingert (caution) 65.
Sounders FC - Kasey Keller, James Riley, Jeff Parke, Patrick Ianni, Tyson Wahl, Erik Friberg (Roger Levesque 80), Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Alvaro Fernandez (Lamar Neagle 18), Nate Jaqua, Mike Fucito (Fredy Montero 69).
Real Salt Lake - Nick Rimando, Robbie Russell (Nelson Gonzalez 76), Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, Tony Beltran, Ned Grabavoy, Kyle Beckerman, Andy Williams (Luis Gil 86), Will Johnson, Jean Alexandre (Chris Wingert 62), Fabian Espindola.