SANDY, Utah – Since It was opened in 2008, Rio Tinto Stadium has been one of the toughest stadiums to play in for a visiting team.
On Wednesday night, with an Independence Day crowd of 20,363 on hand, the Sounders were composed and held the fourth-highest scoring team in MLS off the board, finishing with a 0-0 draw.
“Obviously we’re happy with the result; we’re happy that we played to a shutout. That was one of the things we wanted to concentrate on today,” said Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid. “Some of the possession that we gave them was in their end of the field, which didn’t really concern me. For us right now it’s about showing determination and grit.”
Bryan Meredith earned his third shutout of the season behind a sturdy defense that allowed just three shots on goal. It was Seattle’s first shutout since they topped FC Dallas 2-0 on May 9.
“I think just being mentally switched on the entire 90 minutes and being well-connected with the back line and the back line connected to the midfield and so on is the reason why we did well,” Meredith said. “It’s hard to come here and play in the altitude. It was tough, but I think we came out and did well.”
The game got out to a physical start when Chris Wingert went in hard on the ankles of Mauro Rosales in the third minute and had some chippy moments. Later, Alvaro Saborio was shown a yellow card for dangerous play in the 41st minute and Fabian Espindola shoved a couple of Sounders players after a late foul called on Zach Scott.
However, the Sounders kept their composure and didn’t let the antics of Espindola and Saborio divert them from their task.
Salt Lake had the most dangerous opportunity in the first half off a corner kick that bounced around the box and was finally put on frame by defender Nat Borchers, but Servando Carrasco was at the post and cleared the ball off the line to keep the game scoreless in the 32nd minute.
“Honestly, I don’t know how the ball got there, but I looked to my right and saw that it was all good,” Meredith smiled. “It’s why you put a guy there.”
RSL got another chance in the 52nd minute when Saborio slipped into the box and knocked a ball past Meredith into the net, only to have the goal waved off because Saborio was flagged offside. They would get two more opportunities in the next two minutes, but Espindola missed wide on a left-footed shot and Saborio had another hard shot from the middle of the box saved by Meredith.
The Sounders gained some momentum around the hour mark, getting shots from Zach Scott, Eddie Johnson and Fredy Montero in a ten-minute stretch, but they had three off frame and Montero’s shot was deflected into an easy save for Nick Rimando.
Then in the 88th minute, Rosales, who moved into a more central position when Cordell Cato subbed on for Montero, raced up the left side and clipped a ball into the box. It skipped past Johnson in the box and nearly found Cato streaking toward the far post, but it jumped over his foot and through.
“Mauro did a good job when we pushed him high in the last 10-15 minutes of the game,” Schmid said. “I thought he was very dangerous, very effective and he made a great run there so that could’ve been where we walked out and stolen the game a little bit.”
In the waning moments of the match, Marc Burch sent a cross in from the left side and Johnson got a head to it, but couldn’t find the last-minute magic. With the draw, the Sounders became the first MLS team to get three straight regular season results at Rio Tinto Stadium, going 1-0-2 in their last three league matches in Sandy.
The Sounders will host the Colorado Rapids on Saturday in a nationally televised game on NBC Sports Network. Kickoff is at 8 pm Pacific as the Sounders will look to extend their unbeaten streak to four straight against MLS opponents and three straight in league play.
Sounders FC – None.
Real Salt Lake – None.
Sounders FC – Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (caution) 41; Leo Gonzalez (caution) 46+.
Real Salt Lake – Alvaro Saborio (caution) 41; Chris Wingert (caution) 56; Fabian Espindola (caution) 86.
Sounders FC – Bryan Meredith, Zach Scott, Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Leo Gonzalez, Mauro Rosales, Servando Carrasco, Brad Evans (Andy Rose 64), Alvaro Fernandez (Marc Burch 85), Fredy Montero (Cordell Cato 73), Eddie Johnson.
Real Salt Lake – Nick Rimando, Chris Wingert, Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Nat Borchers, Kenny Mansally (Jonny Steele 79), Luis Gil (Ned Grabavoy 62), Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Will Johnson, Fabian Espindola, Alvaro Saborio.