By TYLER GRAY
SANDY, Utah – A dominant Real Salt Lake side emerged victorious in the latest battle of the Western Conference war with the Seattle Sounders.
RSL put in a complete team effort on Saturday night, defeating the visitors from Seattle 2-0 to move to the top of the conference standings.
The game started out very open-ended as both sides pushed to be the first to get on the scoresheet. The opening goal would not come until 41st minute, but the wait was well worth it.
Javier Morales’s free kick attempt was deflected and bounced right to Kyle Beckerman. The veteran midfielder took it out of the air with a beautiful side volley that kissed the underside of the crossbar and beat Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning.
“At first I was thinking, ‘I’m wide open,’” Beckerman said after the match. “The ball popped out and I just tried to get something solid on it to get it on goal, and luckily it went in.”
The Sounders were unable to respond before the halftime whistle as they finished the opening half with zero total shots. The second half was not any kinder to the Sounders as it only took RSL a single minute to find the back of the net again.
Once again, Morales played a huge part in the goal. He played a beautiful ball to an onrushing Robbie Findley, whose shot was parried by Gspurning. The ball fell fortuitously to forward Alvaro Saborio, who ended up lashing a pass back to Findley. The RSL forward didn’t miss twice, blasting the ball into the back of the net to make it 2-0.
“Right when you turn around, [Saborio] takes the shot,” Findley said. “It came back to me, bobbled between my legs and sat right there. I was able to just turn around and get it the first time.”
The shellshocked Sounders would rarely threaten the rest of the match. RSL bossed the midfield and ended the game out-shooting the Sounders 17 to 2.
This is the type of win that makes a statement and surging to the top of the league table doesn’t hurt either, but RSL head coach Jason Kreis brushed off any talk of first place.
“Just because we’re first now, I’m not going to start concerning myself and being happy about that,” Kreis said. “I’m still looking at the individual performances. When I say individual performances I mean week-in week-out, the individual games, and looking for places to improve.”
Kreis will have plenty to look at after this game as plenty of RSL players’ quality shone through. Despite missing regulars Chris Shuler and Kwame Watson-Siriboe in the back due to injury, academy product Carlos Salcedo stepped up admirably in central defense to help preserve the shutout.
These are the types of performances that are happening more regularly from an RSL side that was supposed to be rebuilding this season. Beckerman, however, isn’t surprised by what the team has been able to accomplish.
“I think the biggest thing about that is having a winning mentality since 2007, when we turned it around,” Beckerman said. “We just continue to try to build off that foundation. Whether we bring in new players, young players, old players – I think when the guys see what we’ve done in the past couple of years, they want to buy into this. When we bring in new guys, it’s easy to integrate them to what we’re about here.”
RSL will be back home this Wednesday to face the Carolina RailHawks in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals. Seattle, on the other hand, will have a 10-day break before their next match, a league meeting with D.C. United.
Here are the match highlights: