By JASON MITCHELL
Coming into Saturday night’s match at Rio Tinto Stadium, Real Salt Lake hadn’t managed to score against the Seattle Sounders in more than 400 minutes. Barely half an hour later they’d broken a shaky Seattle defense twice on the way to a 2-1 victory.
In just the eighth minute, Robbie Findley found a loose ball in the six-yard box and pushed it past a diving Michael Gspurning for the 1-0 lead. Brad Evans had attempted to clear a deep RSL throw-in, but the clearance slammed off teammate Osvaldo Alonso and deflected back into Gspurning’s box.
Findley left the match minutes later with a strained adductor.
Luis Gil headed in an insurance goal for RSL (2-2-1) in the 35th minute, capping a flurry of chances that forced Gspurning into three of his eight saves on the night. Ned Grabavoy assisted, taking a short rolling corner along the end line and finding Gil streaking in unmarked from the top of the penalty area.
“We talked a couple days ago, we talked again yesterday, and we talked before the match about how I’m really looking for improvement, about how we are starting our games, especially at home,” RSL head coach Jason Kreis said. “And I think that tonight we saw that when we do that, that when we focus on getting a really positive beginning to matches it will often time lead to good things at the end of matches and good results.”
The mood was a much more somber one for a Seattle side still looking for its first MLS win of the 2013 season.
“Well with the way we were playing it didn’t really surprise me,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said of the loss. “We weren’t playing well and they were playing well. We weren’t running with people. At the end of the day, you have got to keep the ball, and in order to keep the ball you have got to get the ball. So if you don’t go and get the ball, you won’t be able to keep it.”
Evans put the Sounders on the board in the 57th minute with his first goal of the season, sneaking a one-touch, left-footed shot just inside the far post. Mauro Rosales assisted on the goal, flicking a cross from teenager DeAndre Yedlin toward the center of the penalty area.
The Sounders couldn’t find the equalizer despite creating chances over the last 30 minutes.
For the Sounders (0-3-1), the defeat ends a streak of 75 straight games without losing back-to-back matches. The loss also marks the first time Seattle has opened a season losing three of its first four games. The slow start is surprising for a team expected to be an MLS Cup contender when the season began.
“We’re picking and choosing what times in the game when we want to play,” Schmid said. “We have moments in the game where three or four guys are involved and some other guys aren’t involved, then some other guys get involved and others aren’t. We have yet to have a game where all 11 guys are involved for the whole 90 minutes. Players have to take hold of the game.”
The Sounders won’t have much time to dwell on Saturday’s loss. Not with a CONCACAF Champions League semifinal first leg vs. Santos Laguna looming on Tuesday.
” We have to take what’s coming our way: the criticism, the backlash – we deserve it, but the good thing is that the season is still young,” Sounders midfielder Steve Zakuani said. “We have time to turn it around, and CONCACAF is a good escape for us. We’ll come back to MLS play in a couple weeks’ time, and hopefully we’ll be ready for it.”
RSL did well to post the victory without the services of star forward Alvaro Saborio, with rookie forward Devon Sandoval filling in admirably.
“Devon gave us exactly what he has been giving us now for the past two months,” RSL head coach Jason Kreis said of Sandoval. “He just covers so much ground and works so hard and battles for every single ball. To have a young player basically showing the rest by example what Real Salt Lake means to him, and what it means, what this opportunity means for him, what it means to get a chance to play professional soccer I think is saying a lot; so I hope that all the guys took notice.”
Looking forward, Real Salt Lake travels to Colorado next Saturday for a Rocky Mountain Cup match against the Rapids, while Seattle hosts Liga MX side Santos Laguna Tuesday night in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals. The Sounders have next weekend off from league play to prepare for the second leg, scheduled for Tuesday, April 9 in Torreon, Mexico.
Both a Reserve League match against RSL on Sunday and a regular-season match against Chivas USA next weekend were re-scheduled to give Seattle rest before its Champions League matches.
Here are the match highlights: