Sounders come up empty against Real Salt Lake
A goal by Real Salt Lake’s Fabien Espindola in the 51st minute Saturday night put an end to several streaks for Sounders FC – tops among them a six-game unbeaten run that ended in the 1-0 loss.
The goal also ended Seattle’s shutout streak at 321 minutes and the shutout streak of goalkeeper Brian Meredith at 275 minutes.
It was the first time the Sounders had given up a goal in the run of play since the season opener – a total of 798 minutes.
“I thought we played well in the first 45 minutes,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “... I didn’t think we gave up a lot of good chances. Obviously they buried one of them, and that sometimes happens. I didn’t think we were as good in the second half.
“I thought they did a good job of taking a little bit of the air out of the ball, slowing down our attack. I think maybe fatigue affected us, because our movement up front wasn’t as active as it was in the first half.”
The result – before a season-high crowd of 39,312 at CenturyLink Field – ended the Sounders’ five-game winning streak dating to the first week of April and a six-game unbeaten string dating to the last week of March.
It also prevented Seattle from becoming the third MLS team to win five games in a stretch of 15 days.
That’s a lot of impact for a 15-yard kick that came in a game Seattle had seemed to control until then.
The play began with a Sounders turnover at midfield. It continued with a chip pass to the top of the penalty area by midfielder Luis Gil. And it concluded when Espindola split a couple of Seattle defenders and one-touched the ball past Meredith to the far side.
“I didn’t really think I had much of a chance on it,” Meredith said. “It came pretty quick. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to clear that ball away, and he was able to get a good finish.”
The Sounders couldn’t answer, and didn’t even force Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando to deny them. Seattle took eight shots – four in each half – but put none on goal.
“Credit to their back four,” Seattle forward Eddie Johnson said. “They were hard to break down. They’re really physical. They really played us out of the game. Saying that, I thought we had some success out wide.
“But five games in 15 days kind of showed the fatigue in the second half. In the first half I thought we were able to be a little dangerous. But as the second half went on I thought we got tired.”
The result leaves Salt Lake at the top of the Major League Soccer standings with an 8-3-2 record and 26 points.
Seattle dropped to 7-2-1 and remains at 22 points – tied with the San Jose Earthquakes.
In one piece of good personnel news, Sounders midfielder Alvaro Fernandez returned to action in the 58th minute after missing the previous five games with a quadriceps strain.
However, midfielder Brad Evans missed the game with a calf injury, which Schmid said is not expected to heal by Saturday when the Sounders return to action in Vancouver, B.C., against the Whitecaps.
After going 4-1 over their busiest stretch of the season, a one-game week sounded good to the Sounders.
“Five games in (15) days is a little bit of a haul,” Schmid said. “But at the end, it’s not an excuse. We had enough chances in the first half that we needed to get a goal, and I think a tie would have been a fair result tonight probably because they maybe had a little bit more in terms of possession in the second half.
“But overall I can’t fault our guys for what they’ve done over the last five games.”
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