Over the course of 13 matches in four seasons, Seattle Sounders FC and Real Salt Lake have developed a hotly contested rivalry that has made CenturyLink Field and Rio Tinto Stadium perfect theaters for those showdowns.
Here are the top five moments that have made the series so heated and entertaining.
5. April 10, 2010 – 2-2 draw at Rio Tinto Stadium
Sounders FC were seeking to end Real Salt Lake’s ten-match unbeaten streak at Rio Tinto Stadium and for 93 minutes it looked like they would do just that. Steve Zakuani scored in the 11th minute and Tyrone Marshall was credited with another goal in the 71st minute. Will Johnson equalized in between, so the match went well into stoppage time with the Sounders leading 2-1. But in the 94th minute, RSL earned one last corner kick. Nelson Gonzalez swung the ball in from the right corner and found Alvaro Saborio for the last-gasp goal to leave the Sounders with a 2-2 draw, keeping Salt Lake’s streak alive – one that wouldn’t end for more than a year after that match.
4. October 29 and November 2, 2011 – 3-2 RSL playoff series in the Western Conference semifinals
The Western Conference playoffs looked like a collision course for a Sounders-LA Galaxy series as the two hottest teams in MLS finished off the season strong. Meanwhile, Real Salt Lake was winless in their last six matches to finish third in the West. It may have looked like Seattle would be heavy favorites in their Western Conference semifinal series, but RSL had a different agenda.
With the first leg at Rio Tinto Stadium inching toward halftime, Alvaro Saborio pushed the home side into a 1-0 lead. Just after the break, he added another and it looked like the Sounders would stop the bleeding and have a manageable 2-0 deficit heading into the second leg in Seattle. Again, Salt Lake had different plans, as Ned Grabavoy snuck in an 88th minute goal to put RSL up 3-0 with 90 minutes left to play at CenturyLink Field.
There, the Sounders showed their character in fighting back while Salt Lake was looking to possess the ball and survive. In the 55th minute, Osvaldo Alonso scored the first goal on a penalty. Six minutes later, Lamar Neagle scored and suddenly, the 3-0 lead was down to 3-2 with nearly 30 minutes left to play. However, the Sounders weren’t able to muster that equalizing tally and the comeback came up just short as RSL advanced to the Western Conference Championship series with a 3-2 series win.
3. November 2, 2012 – 0-0 draw in the first leg of the Western Conference semifinals at CenturyLink Field
While the 2011 playoff series had goals, the 2012 Western Conference Semifinals was just the opposite, as Seattle’s Michael Gspurning and Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando put on a goalkeeping clinic at CenturyLink Field in the first leg of the series.
With the stakes high, Gspurning finished the match with four saves, only to be outdone by Rimando, whose five saves all seemed to come in dramatic fashion to keep the Sounders out of the net. The match was the third straight scoreless draw between the two teams, who combined for just one goal in three regular-season matches against each other.
2. May 28, 2011 – 2-1 Sounders FC win at Rio Tinto Stadium
Real Salt Lake turned Rio Tinto Stadium into a fortress. Twenty-nine times visitors entered the stadium, hopeful for a victory and 29 times they left short of that goal. That home unbeaten streak would come to an end at the hands of the Sounders.
Defender Patrick Ianni scored in the second half to give Seattle the 1-0 lead, then Neagle added an insurance goal that would come in handy later in the match, crushing a ball from 24-yards out that hit the underside of the crossbar and went in for his first MLS goal and a 2-0 advantage.
Salt Lake would score once off a goal from Nelson Gonzalez in the 87th minute, but Sounders FC assured that RSL wouldn’t have any stoppage time saviors and the Sounders walked out with a 2-1 win.
1. November 8, 2012 – 1-0 Sounders FC win in the second leg of the playoff series at Rio Tinto Stadium
It had been nearly 390 minutes since there had been a goal in the head-to-head series between Sounders FC and Real Salt Lake. Fabian Espindola scored the only goal in the first match of the regular season series to give RSL the 1-0 victory. Three scoreless draws later, two in the regular season and one in the playoffs, things looked headed for another 0-0 result. Then Mario Martinez stepped to the ball and scored perhaps the biggest goal in club history.
In the 81st minute, Martinez fielded a ball from Fredy Montero on the left side. He gathered the ball, froze his defender, then ripped it past Rimando and inside the far post for his first goal as a Sounder. Salt Lake sought the equalizer, but it would never come and the Sounders would advance to the Western Conference Championship for the first time in club history.