Rare is the case that Sigi Schmid would point to a series loss as a memorable point for him in a rivalry.
However, Sounders FC’s 3-2 defeat in the 2011 Western Conference Semifinals came with a caveat and that made it memorable for Schmid as he was asked of his favorite matches played between Seattle and Real Salt Lake.
He had plenty to choose from, as the two Western Conference foes had amassed 16 meetings across all competitions. Friday’s match at CenturyLink Field will push Salt Lake past the LA Galaxy as the most frequent Seattle opponent since Sounders FC’s inaugural MLS season in 2009. Through all of the matches, though, Schmid had two in mind.
“The two games that stick out the most to me are the win in Salt Lake when Mario Martinez scored the goal late,” Schmid said, referencing the 2012 Western Conference Semifinals. “And the game that knocked us out of the playoffs, but the game at home against them when we had lost in Salt Lake 3-0 and where we were all over them and were very close to that third goal.”
In that match, a crowd of 36,021 packed CenturyLink Field with hopes of Sounders FC mounting a historic comeback against Real Salt Lake. In the first leg of the series, Salt Lake took the game to the Sounders, dominating throughout and finishing with a 3-0 lead at Rio Tinto Stadium. They just needed to prevent Seattle from taking a 3-0 victory themselves to ensure advancement and Sounders FC came out firing from the start.
In a first half that saw Seattle take 15 shots, they simply could not crack a sturdy RSL defense. Chances of a comeback seemed all but erased when Jeff Parke was faced with an open net and thundered a shot from the top of the box, only to have Tony Beltran clear it off the line at the last moment and the two teams went into halftime scoreless.
In the second half, Seattle needed three goals in 45 minutes, but that comeback trail would need to start with a first step and that came in the 56th minute when Osvaldo Alonso scored on a penalty. Lamar Neagle would add a second in the 61st minute on an assist from Fredy Montero and the Sounders were suddenly just one goal down with 30 minutes to find a series equalizer. Nick Rimando and Kasey Keller traded a pair of acrobatic saves and while Seattle continued to press, the first-leg deficit would prove too tall a mountain to climb and Salt Lake survived with a 3-2 series win.
“The attitude and the desire that we came out on the field with was tremendous,” recalled Schmid.
Overall, Seattle is just 2-5-4 in regular-season play against Real Salt Lake, winning in the first meeting at CenturyLink Field in 2009 and again to snap a 29-match home unbeaten streak in 2011. Sounders FC is 2-1-1 in playoff action, though, and holds a 1-0-0 edge in the U.S. Open Cup, for a cumulative record of 5-6-5 all-time.
Among the other memorable meetings between the two sides were:
April 10, 2010
Twice Sounders FC took the lead at Rio Tinto Stadium and twice the home side came back. Steve Zakuani netted an 11th minute goal and that 1-0 lead held through halftime. Will Johnson would equalize on a diving header in the 53rd minute, but Tyrone Marshall scored to reclaim the lead for Seattle in the 72nd minute. Time ticked away in stoppage time until eventually Salt Lake whipped a cross in from the right side and Alvaro Saborio headed home the equalizer in the 94th minute for a 2-2 draw.
May 28, 2011
Amidst a downpour at Rio Tinto Stadium, Sounders FC was looking to become the first visitors to topple RSL since a 2-0 loss to the Kansas City Wizards on May 16, 2009. Things grew more difficult for Seattle in the early stages of the match when Alvaro Fernandez had to leave with a hamstring injury, but his replacement – Neagle – would prove to be the night’s hero. First, Salt Lake went down a man when Jamison Olave was ejected for pulling down Mike Fucito on a clear path to goal just outside the box. Patrick Ianni scored in the 71st minute, tapping in a ball from Fredy Montero for a 1-0 lead and snapping a 409-minute shutout streak for Salt Lake. Then Neagle blasted a shot from distance that snuck inside the top corner for his first career MLS goal, making it 2-0 in the 84th minute. RSL would pull one back, but Seattle held on to win, ending Salt Lake’s home unbeaten streak at 29 matches.