SEATTLE – The meeting between the Sounders FC and Real Salt Lake set up as a clash of two of the top three teams in the Western Conference. And while international absences and injuries left several regulars off of both rosters, the matchup certainly didn’t lack for drama as the Sounders played down a man for 60 minutes and still earned their third straight shutout in a scoreless draw to stay within three points of RSL in the conference standings.
Already playing without four regular starters and with Brad Evans playing right back instead of his customary role in one of the midfield positions, the Sounders were dealt another blow when Zach Scott was shown his second yellow card just 30 minutes into the match.
“I was proud of our team considering the players that were missing and playing a man down. I thought our team showed a lot of character,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “We knew were going to give away some possession in the second half, but I thought our team held solid.”
Scott was given his first caution in the 10th minute during a stoppage while defending an impending free kick, then was sent off for his second yellow on a tackle of Javier Morales while RSL was on the attack.
Playing without Scott, who was starting at center back for just the fourth time in his 16 MLS starts this season, Brad Evans moved to center back and in the 40th minute and Mike Seamon made his 2012 MLS debut at right back. It was Seamon’s first appearance since September 9, 2010 – also in a scoreless draw with Real Salt Lake.
“I thought everybody responded to the challenge of having to play a slightly different position,” Schmid said. “Obviously, I’m pleased with that.”
Even down a man for the final 15 minutes of the first half, the Sounders still outshot Salt Lake 7-3 in the first half.
The field would tilt in Salt Lake’s favor in the second half, but they still wouldn’t get their best chances until stoppage time.
Two minutes into the added time, RSL defender Chris Schuler popped off a left-footed shot from just inside the top of the 18-yard box, but Michael Gspurning ranged to his right and punched the shot clear for one of his five saves on the night.
Moments later, Sebastian Velasquez took a left-footed shot from slightly closer range and it caromed off of Andy Rose and Gspurning was able to knock it away again.
Seattle held on in the waning moments and earned their third straight shutout, 12th clean sheet of the season and the eighth of the year for Gspurning.
“This isn’t coming from nothing. It says something about our defense and the quality not only of our defense, but of the whole team,” Gspurning said. “It’s great.”
The draw moves the Sounders to 14-7-11 (53 points) on the season and they remain three points behind Real Salt Lake, who are in second in the West at 17-11-5 (56 points).
The Sounders will host FC Dallas on Sunday in a match televised nationally on ESPN. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 pm from CenturyLink Field.
Sounders FC – None.
Real Salt Lake – None.
Sounders FC – Zach Scott (caution) 10; Zach Scott (caution/ejection) 30; Christian Tiffert (caution) 67.
Real Salt Lake – Tony Beltran (caution) 46+; Chris Schuler (caution) 51.
Sounders FC – Michael Gspurning, Brad Evans, Zach Scott, Jeff Parke, Marc Burch, Mauro Rosales (Alex Caskey 80), Osvaldo Alonso, Andy Rose, Christian Tiffert, Fredy Montero (David Estrada 76), Sammy Ochoa (Mike Seamon 40).
Real Salt Lake – Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran, Jamison Olave (Chris Schuler 46), Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert, Kyle Beckerman, Luis Gil (David Viana 82), Jonny Steele, Javier Morales, Fabian Espindola, Emiliano Bonfigli (Sebastian Velasquez 71).