The Sounders FC outmanned Real Salt Lake 2-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday, taking advantage of the home team after RSL went down a man when 2010 Defender of the Year Jamison Olave was issued a red card. The win lifts Seattle to 5-4-5 (20 points) and third in the Western Conference standings.
Neither team looked to have the advantage in the first half and Real Salt Lake was on the attack to start the second half. But all that changed when Mike Fucito battled past Olave and forced the RSL defender to either let him go undeterred into the box to go 1v1 with Nick Rimando or pull him down and risk a possible red card while giving Seattle a free kick just outside the box. He chose the latter and was summarily ejected, leaving Seattle with the man-advantage for the final 32 minutes of the game.
Kasey Keller made five tremendous saves to limit RSL to just one goal. He came up big early in the game, in the middle of the game and late in the game to preserve the victory. Whether it was diving to stop a Jean Alexandre shot, arching to parry a Jamison Olave header into the crossbar or holding off several shots from close and long range.
Lamar Neagle was an early substitute for the injured Alvaro Fernandez after Fernandez suffered a hamstring strain in the 18th minute and proved his mettle on both ends of the field. While he got his legs under him in the first half, he focused on covering the defensive half. After the intermission, he went to his instincts and became an offensive threat - reaching an apex when he blasted a shot over the hand of Rimando and into the bottom of the crossbar, where it caromed into the net for his first career MLS goal.
What We Learned
The Sounders Are Road Warriors - The Sounders FC is now 2-2-3 on the road, taking 9 points from 7 games. It may not be too overwhelming, but the club has now ended the Columbus Crew’s 22-game home unbeaten streak in 2009 and now Real Salt Lake’s 29-game home unbeaten streak. Their road mark of 1.29 points per match is much better than the rest of the league’s average of 0.94. The fact that their opponents have a combined mark of 17-4-13 (1.88 points per match) against other opponents makes that road record all the more impressive.
Depth Is King - Both Seattle and Salt Lake were playing without several key players. RSL got strong contributions from goalscorer Nelson Gonzalez and midfielder-turned-forward Jean Alexandre, but it was the depth of the Sounders that proved the difference. Not only was Neagle that scored the game-winning goal, but Mike Fucito caused a constant threat to the sizable and stingy Salt Lake defenders. Not to mention the inclusion of starters Erik Friberg, Tyson Wahl and Nate Jaqua. With players working their way back from injuries, that can only mean good things for Sigi Schmid and the Sounders.
Next In Line
The Sounders will take to the road again next Saturday when they meet the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park. Seattle topped Chicago 2-1 at Qwest Field earlier this season and has a 3-0-2 all-time record against the Fire. Chicago is 1-4-6 on the season and hasn’t won since a 3-2 win over Sporting Kansas City in their second match of the season. They have since gone 0-4-5.