The last time Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Tyler Miller played against Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium, his MLS debut was spoiled after he gave up an 85th-minute goal to RSL’s Jamison Olave that sent the Sounders to a tough 2-1 defeat.
In his return to Rio Tinto in Seattle’s Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Round of 16 matchup with RSL on Tuesday, Miller got his redemption in resounding fashion.
The 2015 second-round MLS SuperDraft pick out of Northwestern was magnificent throughout Tuesday’s contest, denying chance after chance from RSL and allowing the Sounders to maintain a 1-1 draw that sent the game to a penalty kick shootout.
Miller then saved shots from both RSL’s Joao Plata and Kyle Beckerman during the shootout, pacing the Sounders to a 4-1 penalty kick triumph that sent them through to the USOC quarterfinals.
“Tyler was solid. I think the last time he was here, he was obviously disappointed,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said of Miller’s March 12 debut. “I think he got rid of those demons tonight.”\
The Sounders’ USOC quarterfinal matchup will take place on July 20 against either the Portland Timbers or the LA Galaxy, who meet at Providence Park on Wednesday
The Sounders were forced to rally from a first-half deficit after conceding a penalty kick converted by RSL’s Joao Plata in the 42nd minute, equalizing on a tally from Nelson Valdez in the 52nd.
From there, Seattle’s backline held strong amidst a flurry of pressure and chances from a mostly first-team RSL squad desperately looking for a go-ahead goal, with particularly noteworthy performances coming from Seattle’s center back tandem of Tony Alfaro and Zach Scott.
“[The backline] played amazing,” Miller said. “There was a lot to deal with today with the heat, the altitude. For the whole game they really put in the work and shut down Salt Lake’s front line.
“This is a huge boost of confidence for the team and for the fans too. I think we’ll take this game and really run with it.”
For the Sounders, Tuesday’s result didn’t just send them to the USOC quarterfinals. It also gave them some much-needed positive momentum as they return to MLS play, where the team has struggled in recent weeks. The Sounders play on the road at Toronto FC on Saturday.
“I’d love to say this is a parting of the waters for us and this is where it’ll start going well for us from here on out,” said forward Herculez Gomez. “But that’s up to us. It’s easy to talk about it. To be about it is something else. But it’s definitely a positive.”