SEATTLE – If the Seattle Sounders are going to end their playoff funk, they certainly won’t do it the easy way.
While hardly a disaster, Friday night’s 0-0 tie with Real Salt Lake was far from the ideal result for the home Sounders, who now must win in Salt Lake on Thursday or go home from the playoffs after one round for the fourth straight season.
In the aggregate goal format that MLS uses in its playoffs, getting a win at home isn’t required to advance, but it certainly makes for a far less stressful road game. But despite creating several chances, many of which were thwarted by the impressive efforts of Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando, Seattle now has to find a way to win on the road to advance to the conference finals for the first time.
“I can’t be displeased with how we played and the effort that we gave tonight,” said Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid. “I was very pleased. It’s halftime, it’s 0-0. We’ve been a good road team, and we’ve just got to go to Salt Lake and play well.”
The result may have been disappointing for Seattle, but it was hardly surprising. In three meetings during the regular season, Salt Lake and Sounders FC played to a pair of 0-0 ties, including a scoreless draw here two weeks ago. Salt Lake’s goal in a 1-0 victory in May is the only score between the teams in four meetings this season.
“They’re two similar teams with similar kind of players,” Sounders FC midfielder Mauro Rosales said. “It’s tough to play each other. It’s two of the top teams in the league and the game is going to be like that.”
In last year’s playoffs, Salt Lake jumped ahead of Seattle 3-0 at home, then held on as Sounders FC managed two goals in Seattle. With Seattle hosting the first leg this time around, it hoped to return the favor, and had plenty of good chances to go ahead, but Rimando was simply a man who would not be beaten on this night.
Seattle’s best chances came moments apart when Rimando robbed Sammy Ochoa and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado on back-to-back corner kicks. Ochoa, who was starting in place of an injured Eddie Johnson, found space in the box in the 33rd minute and fired a header on target, but Rimando managed to get one hand on it and send it just over the bar. On the ensuing corner, Hurtado put a header on target, but Rimando was again up to the task.