Sounders thwarted by red-hot Salt Lake keeper; now need to win on the road

Well, it’s a better start to the playoffs than last year, right?

A season ago, Sounders FC opened its playoff with a 3-0 loss in Salt Lake City, then managed two goals at home, not enough to avoid another playoff disappointment. This year, with its home game first, Seattle was hoping to return the favor to Real Salt Lake, but instead had to settle for a 0-0 tie.

That means that Sounders FC, if it wants to avoid yet another quick exit from the playoffs, will need to find a way to win on the road Thursday.

Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said, while he’d obviously preferred a win Friday, he likes the way his team is playing, and is confident his players will respond on the road.

“I can’t be displeased with how we played and the effort that we gave tonight,” Schmid said. “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… I’d be more concerned if we weren’t creating chances.”

“The mood will be fine when we get there. Right now, it was a hard fought game and the guys are a little disappointed that they didn’t come away with a victory today, but in terms of, where are we going to be when we get on the field Thursday? We’ll be ready to play.”

Later, when asked again about any disappointment over the result, Schmid gave a rather entertaining, over-the-top answer:

“We can sit here and we can lament about it. We can cry about it and we can say, ‘Oh, geez, that was terrible. Wow, oh my God, what are we going to do? Oh, woe is me, the sky is falling, are we going to be able to cross the road and not get hit by a car?’ we can talk about all these things right now, but at the end of the day, we’ve got to get ready for a game on Thursday and we have to build on what was good. And what was good was that we created chances. What was good is that we kept them pretty much at bay for the majority of the game, and what was good is that we worked very hard.”

As for why Seattle was unable to come away with a victory despite playing well, the single biggest reason what Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who played out of his mind for most of the 90 minutes, making one spectacular save after another.

“I think it will have to go down as one of the single best individual performances by any player that’s ever worn an RSL jersey,” said Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis.

Added midfielder Mauro Rosales, “You have to keep going. Soccer is like this. If a keeper has the night that he has, sometimes it’s impossible to score. You can shoot from everywhere and you do not score. But the good thing is we generated many chances. We have to keep going.”

The mood of players in the locker room after the game was a mixture of disappointment that they didn’t get a win, but confidence that, if they keep playing the same way, they can win on the road next week.

“OK, now we have to go and take a win on the road. It’s tough, now RSL is maybe favored, but we’re not afraid to go there,” said goalkeeper Michael Gspurning. “… The plus is now on RSL’s side, but don’t write us off. We’re a good way team too. It will be a fun game next week.”

And finally, one injury note. Midfielder Mauro Rosales, who pulled up at the end of a run late in the game and grabbed his hamstring, and was eventually subbed off for Steve Zakuani, indicated he was OK. Schmid also reiterated what he has been saying this week, that forward Eddie Johnson is on track to return from injury for Thursday’s game.

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