SANDY, Utah – In the words of head coach Sigi Schmid, the Sounders FC chose the wrong day to have their worst game of the season.
Seattle came into the first leg of the Western Conference semifinal series strong after consecutive wins over the San Jose Earthquakes and Chivas USA, however, they fell behind to Real Salt Lake in the first half and never were able to find the plot, falling behind 3-0 in the aggregate goal series at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“We’re lucky we didn’t lose 6-0. We were well-served by losing only 3-0. We played not well and I thought Real Salt Lake played very well,” Schmid said. “It was a bad time for us to choose to have a bad game, and obviously they had a really good game. Hats off to them.”
The Sounders will host Real Salt Lake in the second leg of the aggregate goal series at CenturyLink Field on Wednesday, looking for their chance to rectify the series.
“Everything from top to bottom can be better,” said second-half sub Mike Fucito. “They were more physical; we just need to be tougher all around.”
After Salt Lake had several shots on goal stopped by Kasey Keller in the first half, they got on the board in the 41st minute on a controversial play.
Chris Wingert got deep up the left side, then crossed to the far post, where Alvaro Saborio poked the ball in for a goal. However Saborio was clearly offside on the play and referee Mark Geiger even appealed to his assistant for confirmation on the play, but the duo decided not to make the call and pointed to the center circle for the goal.
That score held until halftime, but things didn’t look much different for Seattle once the second half started. Real Salt Lake continued to control the tempo of the game, as well as the possession of the ball.
In the 53rd minute, Javier Morales worked his way up the right side and twisted a cross to the edge of the six-yard box, where Saborio back-heeled a shot to the far post for his second goal of the night and a 2-0 Salt Lake lead.
RSL looked to run the clock down after that point, looking content to go to Seattle with a 2-0 lead. But in the 88th minute, second-half substitute Ned Grabavoy pounced on a rebound and hammered it into the net to rocket Salt Lake to a 3-0 lead.
“We needed to keep it 1-0,” Schmid said. “The last 20 minutes, I thought we had more of the game, but in the second half we can’t give away the goals we gave because it came from lazy marking.”
Seattle did have momentary instants of attack, but couldn’t maintain possession long enough to put much pressure on RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando. That, among other things, will be a key focus for the Sounders as they prepare for the second leg on Wednesday.
“There’s no secret strategy, everybody has to play better soccer then what they played. Everyone has to put in a better performance,” Schmid said. “From the coaching staff to the support staff to the players, everyone has to do better than what they did because tonight wasn’t good enough.”
Wednesday’s match will be televised live on ESPN2 and broadcast on radio on 97.3 KIRO FM.
Sounders FC – None.
Real Salt Lake – Alvaro Saborio (Chris Wingert, Javier Morales) 41; Alvaro Saborio (Javier Morales) 53; Ned Grabavoy 88.
Sounders FC – Osvaldo Alonso (caution) 54; Fredy Montero (caution) 91+; Erik Friberg (caution) 93+.
Real Salt Lake – Fabian Espindola (caution) 30.
Sounders FC – Kasey Keller, James Riley, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Jeff Parke, Leo Gonzalez, Lamar Neagle (Erik Friberg 60), Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Alvaro Fernandez (Roger Levesque 77), Fredy Montero, Sammy Ochoa (Mike Fucito 63).
Real Salt Lake – Nick Rimando, Robbie Russell, Nat Borchers (Luis Gil 84), Jamison Olave (Chris Schuler 32), Chris Wingert, Kyle Beckerman, Andy Williams, Will Johnson, Javier Morales (Ned Grabavoy 79), Fabian Espindola, Alvaro Saborio.