Short-handed Seattle concentrates on defense
The Sounders FC’s game Wednesday lacked for goals, but not for drama.
Seattle defender Zach Scott was ejected by referee Ricardo Salazar in the 30th minute — a blow to an already short-handed team — but the Sounders dug in with 10 men to earn a 0-0 tie against Real Salt Lake at CenturyLink Field.
RSL (17-11-5) maintained a three-point advantage over Seattle (14-7-11) for second place in the Western Conference standings, but the Sounders have played one less game.
“We showed great character,” said goalkeeper Michael Gspurning, who made five saves. “It’s a perfect moment, right before the playoffs, to have a game like this. It was a good fight from us today.”
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Scott earned his first yellow card for a foul in the 10th minute and a second caution — which resulted in a red card — for a hard tackle from behind on midfielder Javier Morales.
Many in the crowd of 38,356 protested the call loudly, as did the Sounders FC bench.
In a halftime interview, which was aired nationally by the NBC Sports Network, coach Sigi Schmid referred to Salazar as RSL’s “12th Man.”
Schmid said after the game that the Sounders were “hard done by the officiating all night.”
“Our fans know his name,” the coach added of Salazar. “I don’t think many fans know the name of the referee. I think that’s an indication.”
Salazar has issued the past three red cards to the Sounders, including one in the U.S. Open Cup final. He also denied Seattle’s penalty-kick appeals just before halftime, which appeared to be the correct — if unpopular — call.
“Lord help us if we get Salazar in the playoffs,” said Schmid, who was particularly upset in the second half with a non-red card for RSL defender Chris Schuler on a Sounders breakaway and the handling of stoppage time.
The best chances for a late winner in the tense match came just before the final whistle, starting with a shot by Schuler that required a masterful diving save by Gspurning. The visitors had another chance in the closing seconds, but a shot by Sebastian Velasquez was deflected by Gspurning just enough to trickle wide of goal.
“For me right now, he’s the goalkeeper of the year in this league,” Schmid said.
The Sounders earned their third consecutive shutout — 12th on the season — and haven’t allowed a goal in 330 minutes. The team’s offense, however, didn’t score against Salt Lake in any of three regular-season meetings.
“I think if we would’ve played even, we would’ve gotten some (goals),” Schmid said.
The Sounders fielded their 29th different starting lineup in 32 games, but the enormity of the changes is what stood out.
Seattle was without Eddie Johnson, Mario Martinez and Adam Johansson due to involvement with their respective national teams Tuesday. RSL, though, was without leading scorer Alvaro Saborio and Will Johnson for the same reason.
Three Sounders defenders didn’t play due to injury: Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (fractured cheekbone), Patrick Ianni (calf) and Leo Gonzalez (hamstring), which made the Scott ejection even more straining.
Michael Seamon made his season debut for Seattle as a tactical sub after the Scott ejection and midfielder Brad Evans played the rest of the game at center back, his first extended playing time there.
“Obviously, it’s not a win, but it’s like a victory,” Seamon said, “especially when you’re down a man for that long.”
• Seattle’s next game is its regular-season home finale against Dallas at 6 p.m. Sunday.
• Goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann, a Seattle product signed last month, made his first appearance on the bench for the Sounders.
• Seattle had gone 16 MLS games since its last red card.
• Sounders midfielder Steve Zakuani also was unavailable to due to an abdominal muscle strain. Hurtado has been fitted for a protective mask and could return Sunday.
• RSL defender Jamison Olave left at halftime with a hamstring injury.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Real Salt Lake-Sounders FC summary
|Real Salt Lake||0 0 — 0|
|Sounders FC||0 0 — 0|
First half — None.
Second half — None.
Goalies — Real Salt Lake, Nick Rimando; Sounders FC, Michael Gspurning.
Yellow Cards — Scott, Sounders FC, 9th; Beltran, Real Salt Lake, 45th+; Schuler, Real Salt Lake, 51st; Tiffert, Sounders FC, 67th.
Red Cards — Scott, Sounders FC, 30th.
Referee — Ricardo Salazar. Assistant Referees — Corey Rockwell. Jeff Hosking. 4th Official — Tyler Ploeger.
A — 38,356 (32,400)
Real Salt Lake — Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert, Jamison Olave (Chris Schuler, 46th), Jonny Steele, Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Luis Gil (David Viana, 82nd), Emiliano Bonfigli (Sebastian Velasquez, 71st), Fabian Espindola.
Sounders FC — Michael Gspurning, Zach Scott, Marc Burch, Jeff Parke, Mauro Rosales (Alex Caskey, 80th), Osvaldo Alonso, Andy Rose, Christian Tiffert, Brad Evans, Sammy Ochoa (Mike Seamon, 40th), Fredy Montero (David Estrada, 76th).
|The top five clubs in each conference advance to the playoffs. San Jose has already clinched the top spot.|
|1. San Jose||64||19-6-7||69||40|
|2. Salt Lake||56||17-11-5||46||35|
|3. Sounders FC||53||14-7-11||48||31|
|4. L.A. Galaxy||50||15-12-5||56||45|