Stellar Gspurning saves point for Sounders vs. RSL


SEATTLE, Wash. – An early red card looked like it might doom the Seattle Sounders in their Western Conference clash vs. Real Salt Lake on Wednesday night, but the Sounders gave RSL all they could handle and rode a strong night from their goalkeeper to earn a precious point.

Michael Gspurning turned in a standout performance, including a pair of clutch late saves, to help the Sounders earn a scoreless draw in front of a crowd of 38,365 at CenturyLink Field.

It was the third straight shutout for the Austrian goalkeeper. Gspurning, replacing the legendary Kasey Keller for Seattle this year, also came into the night allowing a paltry and league-leading 0.74 goals per match.

Missing both Eddie Johnson and three of its starting defenders, Seattle also lost defender Zach Scott to a second yellow card in just the 30th minute. Scott earned his first yellow for a tackle in the 10th minute, and picked up a controversial second yellow from referee Ricardo Salazar for a hard and slightly late tackle on Javier Morales only 20 minutes later.

Salazar has been a target of Seattle fans for years, and Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid didn’t mince words in a televised interview at halftime, calling the referee Real Salt Lake’s “12th man.”

After the match, Schmid ran through a list of complaints about the refereeing before concluding, “It just seems like whenever there’s something 50-50, obviously we don’t get the break with him.”

Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis, however, wasn’t buying that the officiating benefited solely his team.

Scott’s second yellow was a “straight red card,” Kreis said, later adding, “I don’t think that Seattle’s the only one that could make complaints about the calls tonight.”

Despite being down a man, the Sounders (14-7-11) nonetheless outplayed Real Salt Lake (17-11-5) for most of the remaining hour. And somehow, a back line featuring one starter, one regular backup, a midfielder, and a converted midfielder seeing his first action of the season managed to keep Salt Lake off the board.

Seattle’s defense started the night missing right back Adam Johansson to international duty, left back Leo Gonzalez to a pulled hamstring, and center back Jhon Kennedy Hurtado to a facial fracture.

Backup Marc Burch started for Gonzalez, Scott started for Hurtado, and midfielder Brad Evans started at right back. When Scott went out, Schmid quickly subbed Michael Seamon into the game at right back and pushed Evans into a central position.

Seamon, a midfielder in the process of being converted to right back, had yet to play this season.

For Seattle, the point keeps second-place in the conference within reach as the regular season draws to a close.

Real Salt Lake, shorthanded itself, did mount a late flurry, but Gspurning—stellar all night with five saves—came up with clutch stops in the closing moments on shots from Chris Schuler and Sebastien Velasquez.

Salt Lake was missing both Alvaro Saborio and Will Johnson to international duties, and Paulo Jr. to an injury picked up in training Tuesday.

The absences surely hurt RSL’s ability to capitalize on its superior numbers.

“Will’s the type of player,” said Kreis, “that when he gets time and space can run the ball at defensive players in the midfield and make them choose. I think we were just missing a little bit of that tonight. ”

As to Saborio, Kreis said, “We all know what an important player he is for us, with the way he holds the ball up for us and gives us a target to always play to upfront, and with his finishing touch around the goal.”

“It’s a big credit to Seattle,” said Kreis, “the amount of work that they put in for 60-some minutes. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to break a team down that is that committed to making sure that they get the point that they so desperately needed as well.”

Real Salt Lake maintained their three-point lead on Seattle in the standings, but while RSL only has one game left to play, the Sounders still host FC Dallas this weekend before visiting the Los Angeles Galaxy on Oct. 28.

The draw pushes RSL five points clear of the Galaxy, and means they will need just a draw in their final regular season match vs. Vancouver to avoid dropping to fourth place in the West. The tie does open the door for Seattle to move past RSL into second place in the West with a win against Dallas.

Here are the match highlights:

  • RSLfan

    For the record, the first yellow card was not for arguing. It was for a professional foul for grabbing Espindola after he had beat him. Salazar just had a discussion with his linesman who was right next to the foul before giving it out. You could see him show the yellow and then point to where the foul had occured.


    • Jason Mitchell

      Corrected, thanks. Only partially saw it, thought it was for arguing, and the initial stat sheet concurred. It has since been changed by the league as well. Thanks again, and apologies for the mistake.


  • Charles

    Salazar is thankful it wasn’t the Timbers game where 67,000 fans would have been chanting in unison “Salazar sucks”
    At this point the league needs to not have him ref in Seattle. It is on the verge of ugly.


  • lassidawg

    The thought that is a straight red is laughable by this leagues standards. Having watch Rosales get pummeled and be lucky to get a foul called let alone a yellow against the offending player. I would be fine if the 2nd foul was the standard for the league then the top players would be protected.
    Of course it could also be mentioned the yellow on Olave(I think) by Salazar’s standards should have been a red for last man back foul.


    • pslong

      Yeah, Scott’s second yellow isn’t a straight red, but it’s a yellow any day of the week. He’s late and drives through the player with his trailing leg. And the first yellow was the right call, too.

      By USSF’s interpretations of the rules, Schuler’s yellow (not Olave) is the right call. USSF says that there are four “Ds” that must be in place for the last man red card, one of which is distance to goal. It’s also not clear that it’s an obvious goal scoring opportunity, since there is a trailing defender and Schuler, even if he hadn’t fouled Montero, would have been right with him the entire time.


      • Hoov

        What game were you watching? Scott was obviously trying to pull up, and his trailing leg didn’t “drive through” at all. Morales didn’t cover himself in glory either, rolling around like his leg got cut off. I can maybe see it being a yellow, because it was late, but not a second yellow 30 minutes into the game. Salazar seemed far too eager to pull that red out.

        I agree with you about about Schuler’s foul though.


  • Travis

    The frustrating thing is again Salazar failed to be consistent and made himself the center piece of the game. He gave Scott two by the book yellows when really he could have just talked to Scott the second time and it would have been fine. Those were the only two fouls he committed, most refs will try a stern talking to first. Then at the beginning of the second half Schuler was the last defender and pulled down Montero, by the book that has to be red. Where is the consistency? Either use judgement or follow the letter of the law dead on, don’t rotate between the two.


    • JRP

      So little arrogance in the comments from Sounders fans.
      It’s sports. It is going to bring the worst out of people. Just wish everyone would take a breather.
      Someone fill me in. To a Sounders fan which is the worst thing in the MLS: Salazar, Lenhart or tiny stadiums that only fit 25,000 fans?


      • Travis

        Tiny stadiums are fine, I would much rather see a stadium with a capacity of 25k full (portland) than a stadium with a massive capacity not full (NE). They can also create a great environment. Lenhart is just a punk and Salazar is incompetent. They both have affected more teams than Seattle, we just have some of the more vocal fans. Lenhart’s antics have costed multiple teams points this year.


      • g?

        That answers itself!

        Salazar as the ref for a match in San Jose, giving Lenhart a BS PK in front of 15000.


    • Drew11

      Jealous of what? Other than nice attendance nothing about the Sounders is notable. Nothing. Right now nobody outside of Portland cares enough to hate the Sounders.


      • Nytshade


        You must be from Portland. Seattle has one of the nicest finesse team-oriented displays in MLS right now. I love watching their games, because Siggi has put together a vibrant, exciting and attractive team to watch. So, you’re right…they’re not worth hating, because they’re worth far more than that!


      • JRP

        Don’t be such a hater. There are at least 15 other teams in the league that are jealous of everything the Sounders have going on. It is a decent organization with amazing support. I love to hate on many teams in the league but have always seen Seattle as a formidable foe. This coming from an RSL fan.


  • lassidawg

    Salazar because he seems to decide to follow the letter of the Law when it comes to infractions that hurt the Sounders. The most two recent examples are last night and the Open Cup final.
    Like i said above I am fine with Scott being issued 2 yellows as long as it is done consistantly through out the year. Scott is a yellow card waiting to happen.

    I am all for protecting the play makers from all the teams, from a Sounder perspective we have seen Rosales get crushed plenty of times with maybe a foul and rarely a yellow. Although I think teams are now going after Tifert a little more than Rosales.
    If the foul on Shuler was a yellow then it should have been a red by definition. Salazar chose some discretion on that card, so he picked one time to show some and another to not.
    RSL should have destroyed the Sounders last night but seemed content with the tie.
    They had to bring on Mike Seamon for his first appearance of the year because they had no more defenders.


    • JRP

      RSL brought on a guy that had never played and another that hasn’t played since April. Both teams were gasping for air. We were missing Sabo and Will. You were missing Eddie and some defenders. Our top defender couldn’t play on your plastic. Both teams struggled. Don’t pat yourself too hard on the back. It was a valiant effort but it is not like you are the first team to go down a man and still pull out a tie.
      Does anyone have stats on this? It seems to me that almost 50% of the time when a team goes a man down it doesn’t end up leading to goals allowed.


      • lassidawg

        Not patting the Sounders, pointing out RSL let the Sounders off the hook.
        Lets see Johansson, Gonzalez, Ianni out. Hurtado in the 18 but injured, and Parke playing with a staple in his head.
        If Burch and Scott are in the game an you have the talent RSL does they should win everytime.
        RSL didn’t push until the last couple of minutes


  • DCLee

    Seattle has a great fan base and team. These are the type of games that make rivalries! What an exciting 0-0 game.

    And JRP as a DC fan I go with the ref even though I thought Salazar was and still is one of the better refs in MLS. He may have had a bad game last night but he is usually pretty fair IMHO. However Lenhart certainly know how to get under opponents skin but I bet most fans would take a player like him on their team.


    • JRP

      RSL already dealt with that kind of player. We had Clint Mathis. I didn’t like him on the pitch in the jersey and I liked him even less off the pitch.


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