Thursday, November 3, 2011

Salt Lake Gets It Done

No Olave, No Borchers
Real Salt Lake and the Seattle Sounders squared off in what had to be one of the more exciting playoff matches in recent years. Those on the east coast who stayed up and those on around the country who watched bore witness to a near astounding comeback by Seattle that fell just short of triumphant. Salt Lake's defense was depleted and fielding reserves to plug the holes left by Nat Borchers and Jamison Olave. In the end, they fought valiantly and got the job done.

Entering into the match up by three goals on aggregate, Salt Lake knew they'd be in for an onslaught of Seattle attack. Add to that the crowd which came out in droves, thirty six thousand strong and you've got a recipe for a comeback. Plain and simple, RSL had a game plan and that was to essentially build a house and protect it. They did that and for a half, it worked well. The first half was completely dominated by RSL in possession. While the team lacked the typical composure in passing out of the back, they were able to collect themselves and go in tied at zero after the first forty-five. 

It should be noted that Tony Beltran did exceptionally well to block a brilliant shot in the first half; one that would surely have gone it as it had already beaten Rimando. Fabian Espindola was active throughout the match and made his case for most obnoxious forward in MLS as he harassed the Seattle defenders with his threatening runs and quick movements. 

In the second half the Sounders came out firing and completely took over the match. They ended the night out shooting RSL 17-4 overall. It was in the second half that the onslaught became too much as two second half goals nearly put Seattle into extra time. A Osvaldo Alonso penalty kick, cause when Tony Beltran brought down Mike Fucito in the box, got it started. Lamar Neagle doubled the lead when he slotted home a brilliant pass from Fredy Montero. Still, Real Salt Lake fought on and were able to hold out.

Seattle had an incredible season. It should be noted that in their three years of MLS existence they've earned three consecutive Open Cup trophies and been in the post-season every time. Second in the league and solid in the CCL and the Sounders have a lot to be proud of. Still, they have a rabid fan base and an ambitious ownership group. It'll be interesting to see if they force changes to the successful formula they've built. Congratulations to Kasey Keller as well for ending his career with a 2-0 win at home. That's another story for another time. 

The boys from Utah however bent but they did not break under pressure that must have been incredible. With such an emotional season, to be in enemy territory surrounded by 36K screaming fans in green, Salt Lake showed their character. They'll face the winner of the New York/LA match up.

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  1. Another early exit for Seattle....
    It would have been really fun to watch if Seattle had drawn level on aggregate thou.

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