SANDY, Utah – The Seattle Sounders didn’t end their long winless streak Wednesday in Rio Tinto Stadium.
But battling to a hotly contested 0-0 tie against Real Salt Lake, in perhaps the toughest road stadium in MLS, showed significant signs of progress in at least one much-needed area for Seattle – defense.
The Sounders, while winless in a franchise-worst nine games, earned their first league shutout since a May 9 win in Dallas and have gone without defeat in their last two games on the road.
Seattle (7-5-6) had allowed 15 goals in its last eight games, a far cry from three goals allowed in the season’s first nine games.
A turnaround from recent woes isn’t near complete, but the Sounders look to have taken another step closer.
Real Salt Lake (10-6-3) broke a three-game losing streak with the tie and nearly stole a win in the 83rd-minute when a driven shot by forward Fabian Espindola whistled inches wide of the goal.
The wild action continued in the final minutes.
Seattle goalkeeper Bryan Meredith had to scramble to clear a near own-goal in the 87th minute. The Sounders then had a great chance to sneak out with victory, but second-half substitute Cordell Cato couldn’t connect on a sliding attempt while wide open at the far post in the 88th minute.
RSL’s 36-7-14 record at home since 2009 is by far the best in the league.
The hosts looked the part by controlling most of the action in the first half – holding more than 65 percent of the possession and a 7-3 advantage in shots – but the Sounders limited the dangerous chances.
Salt Lake forward Alvaro Saborio, who had four goals in his first six games against Seattle, had the best chance of the first half with a 16th-minute header, but fired it over the goal.
The Sounders’ rare opportunities came on the right side through midfielder Mauro Rosales, but a couple of his swinging crosses were handled well, and in athletic fashion, by RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
Tempers flared a bit in the 41st minute when Seattle defender Leo Gonzalez and Saborio got tangled up near the sideline. Saborio took exception to some contact and shoved his fellow Costa Rican.
Gonzalez fell to the ground and Saborio stood over him, remonstrating for the Sounders left back to get up. Then Seattle midfielder Alvaro Fernandez bear-hugged Saborio and flung him away.
Saborio earned a yellow card in the aftermath, as did Sounders defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado for dissent.
The Sounders host Colorado at 8 p.m. Saturday at CenturyLink Field, and then Chivas USA in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal Wednesday at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila.