Finally, Seattle has its chance to shine. After three seasons of being knocked out of the playoffs in the first round the Sounders have made it to the Western Conference Finals after defeating Real Salt Lake 1-0 in last night’s second leg of the Western Conference semi-finals. The match was a nail biter but well worth the stress.
From the very start of the match it was clear the game was going to be a physical affair. Both teams exchanged heavy tackles but fortunately no early cards were shown. Both sides were evenly matched in the first half as each defense stifled any attacks that came their way. In addition, both Salt Lake and Seattle were without their major playmakers; Seattle was without Rosales and until mid-way through the second half Salt Lake did not play Espindola. Seattle had the best chance of the first half when Mario Martinez blasted a free kick which Nick Rimando parried onto the crossbar by his fingertips.
The second half was a livelier, albeit still tense, showcase. Real Salt Lake gained control of the run of play when Fabian Espindola was introduced midway through the half. It seemed as though Seattle would be the one to break but Michael Gspurning stood tall and came up with some vital saves that prevented a Salt Lake break through. The deadlock did break in the 81st minute as a result of Real Salt Lake’s narrow defense and some Sounders brilliance. Sigi Schmid stated pre-game that Real’s weakness was a defense that has the tendency to narrow and collapse when pressured wide. The Sounders took advantage of this as Brad Evans played a wide pass to Fredy Montero who lofted a lovely cross to a waiting Mario Martinez who half volleyed the ball inside the far post past Nick Rimando. And with that one exquisite goal, Seattle was through to the Western Conference Finals.
Sunday, the Sounders will look to create the same magic again as they face a hot LA Galaxy squad looking to repeat as MLS Cup holders. It will surely be another intense meeting but that is all the better for Sounders fans who live for the big moments.