By JOSE M. ROMERO
Kasey Keller's diving save of a Robbie Findley penalty kick in the 32nd minute salvaged a point for the Seattle Sounders in their scoreless draw Thursday night with defending MLS champion Real Salt Lake.
Keller guessed correctly on Findley's PK and the ball was cleared away. Jeff Parke was whistled for fouling Findley in the box moments before. "I didn't hit it that well and he made a good save," Findley said of Keller. "Nothing more than that really."
Though it wasn't the prettiest of matches, with players from both teams colliding with teammates or making bad decisions on and off the ball, each team had moments. RSL's best was the Findley PK, while the Sounders had the ball in the final third of RSL's end of the field throughout the game but ruined their own chances for more good shots because of poor touches and passing. It also looked like Seattle's players were a tad bit slower to the ball than normal.
"For whatever reason, all of our passing was disjointed and we didn't click in that regard," Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said.
Toward the end, RSL played for the draw and got it on the same pitch where it won the league championship last November. Salt Lake got the draw in front of another full house at Qwest Field with Kyle Reynish in goal for only his second game of the season, and without the availability of one of its top scorers, Fabian Espindola.
Seattle was without forward Blaise N'kufo and defender James Riley. Zach Scott held his own at right back in place of Riley for the Sounders.
The Sounders (9-9-6) maintained hold of a wild-card playoff spot with 33 points. Real Salt Lake (12-4-8) moved into a tie with the L.A. Galaxy for first place in the West at 44 points, but has played one more game than the Galaxy.
Catching Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference standings is a longshot for the Sounders, but strengthening their playoff position is within the Sounders' reach. From that perspective, three points would have helped Seattle more than RSL Thursday. Real Salt Lake remains in contention for the Supporters Shield.
Osvaldo Alonso played well for the Sounders, the midfielder getting a good strike on a ball in the second half that narrowly went over the the goal. RSL has an eight-game unbeaten streak, and 44 points is a new season high for the club.
"This is a tough place to play, now they're getting desperate with the playoffs," RSL's Kyle Beckerman said. "We were able to match their intensity and knew that in the 75th minute we could get out of here with a draw."