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RSL rescue deserved draw from Sounders

Posted on 11 April 2010 by Patrick McShane

It was a night full of celebration, disappointment, and mild satisfaction Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium as Real Salt Lake fought back twice to rescue a 2-2 draw against the Seattle Sounders. It was the first time that RSL played in front of their home fans since winning the MLS Cup last season, and the 19,970 fans who arrived early to see the raising of the Champions Flag and the presentation of the Cup Rings had to be disappointed with the lost points at home.

When you’re done here, be sure to check out the photo gallery.

To the winners... ©Julie Harper/ASN

While RSL controlled much of the opening minutes with bright and creative play, it took Seattle just 11 minutes to silence the stadium after Steve Zakuani found himself open with acres of space to run at opposing keeper Nick Rimando. It was far too easy of a goal for Seattle as starlet Fredy Montero saw RSL defender Robbie Russell sleeping on an inbound pass and made a simple pass to the speedy midfielder for his first goal of the season.

Javier Morales was again in fine form for RSL as he controlled the pace of the match earlier on but just couldn’t find a way to apply the finishing touch. Sadly, Morales wouldn’t get a chance to assemble a comeback, as he had to leave the match before half due to a right groin strain. Midfield counterpart Ned Grabavoy also left the match due to injury, with the early diagnosis appearing to be much worse with a possible sprained knee.

The second half continued to produce quality chances for both squads, though there was a visible drop in crispness n the final third. However, all of these opportunities finally came to fruition in the 53rd minute when Russell made amends and whipped a cross deep into the box for a diving Will Johnson to head home. With the goal, it appeared that RSL might have enough time to mount an astonishing comeback and seal the victory.

Unfortunately for RSL, Sounders star Freddie Ljungberg was still fighting for every opportunity at the opposite end. His tenacity resulted in a free kick on the left wing late in the match that led to the go-ahead goal, when RSL defender Nat Borchers couldn’t hold off Sounders veteran Tyrone Marshall and inadvertently headed the cross into goal. By all accounts the match appeared to be over as Seattle seemed comfortable in defense as RSL couldn’t string a clean set of passes together.

But RSL were far from done. Bringing new marksman Álvaro Saborío in for burner Robbie Findley signaled RSL’s hope of stealing a goal off of a set play. Little did the faithful know, but this wouldn’t happen until late into added time, when standout substitute Nelson Gonzalez rocketed a perfect corner kick to Saborío who was just able to outmuscle his mark for a flick header to the corner.

While the crowd expected more than a draw from a team that traditionally dominates at home, there was a sense of relief throughout the stands, as the point taken seemed fair. There will be little time for RSL to lick their wounds as they travel back to where they opened the season to face the San Jose Earthquakes in the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday. It is unknown how long either Morales or Grabavoy will be out, meaning there may be some tinkering to RSL’s lineup. One would also think that with the late goal, Saborío warrants future consideration for the match on Wednesday or possibly on the road versus the Galaxy next Saturday. As noted by Johnson, “I’d put my money on it that he scores a lot of goals this year for us.”

PLAYER RATINGS
Real Salt Lake player ratings on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being best:

Rimando: 5 – Wasn’t really tested and not much he could have done on the opening goal. Maybe could have been a little more assertive on the late free kick, but that’s about it.

Russell: 5 – Would have been much lower had he not delivered the crucial cross for the first equalizer. Going into the match I had a feeling Zakuani was going to give him problems and that definitely seemed to be the case. Robbie hasn’t been horrible, but I’m curious how Tony Beltran has to be feeling right now.

Olave: 7 – Physically dominant and noticeably controlled in the box. Looks like last week’s penalty calls have given Olave some food for thought as he was in much more control and anchored the back line.

Borchers: 5 – Tough match for Nat. He did an admirable job throughout, but struggling to hold off Marshall and the late own-goal is pretty hard to swallow. Still, I shutter to think what the result would have been without him.

Wingert: 4 – I just don’t know about Chris. I wish I could see more production from him offensively, but he also makes me anxious defensively at times. Again – when does Beltran get some love?

Beckerman: 6 – After being rewarded this week with a brand new contract, Beckerman continued to hustle and fight with a tough Seattle midfield all night. Nothing outstanding, just consistent.

Johnson: 7 – When Johnson first came to RSL he was listed as an attacking mid and forward. There is definitely a part of me that would like to see him get forward more often for spectacular goals like Saturday’s, instead of sitting isolated on a wing

Grabavoy: 4 – Didn’t do much prior to his injury. I questioned his third consecutive start this week as I felt like Gonzalez and Williams both warranted more time with their recent play. Now it looks like we’ll see just how much they deserve it, as Ned faces an extended period of time on the sideline.

Morales: Incomplete – I saw another stellar performance in the making early in the match from Morales. Unfortunately, Javi picked up an injury and RSL noticeably struggled.

Espindola: 5 – After last week’s late headlock tackle on Bobby Boswell, I’m officially on board with those that think Espy is a bit of a head case. That said, his speed, left-footed ability, and motor make him a must-start every week.

Findley: 4 – Still waiting for Findley’s opening tally of the season. One could argue that while he isn’t pounding them in to the back of the net, he is at least involved in many of the positive plays and goals. While true, I’d still like to see him have a better killer instinct around goal as he lazily hit a couple sitters straight at Keller.

SUBSTITUTES:
Williams: 5 – Night and day between Andy and Javi. Williams isn’t a huge drop off in terms of control and passing, but he definitely is a little less creative on attack holds to ball up too often. Maybe more playing time in Javi’s absence will settle him a bit.

Gonzalez: 7 – Man-crush is a bit too much, but I must admit that I’m a pretty big fan of Gonzalez. While he still needs to work on his touch and patience when pressured, his energy and skill is something RSL hasn’t seen on the wing before.

Saborío: 6 – Hard to knock someone who provided a late equalizer, but there’s still a part of me that thinks that Sabo can do better. He struggles at times to link up with teammates in the final third and is probably still finding his role with the team. I’m excited to see what he can bring to the team in the middle of July once he’s acclimated.

MATCH FACTS
Real Salt Lake (1-1-1) v. Seattle Sounders FC (1-1-1)
Saturday, April 10, 2010 – Rio Tinto Stadium

Scoring Summary:
SEA – Steve Zakuani 1 (Fredy Montero 2, James Riley 1) 11
RSL – Will Johnson 1(Robbie Russell 1, Robbie Findley 2) 53
SEA – own goal (Nat Borchers) 72
RSL – Álvaro Saborío 1 (Nelson Gonzalez 1) 94+’

Real Salt Lake – GK-Nick Rimando; DF-Robbie Russell, DF-Nat Borchers, DF-Jamison Olave, DF-Chris Wingert; MF-Ned Grabavoy (Nelson Gonzalez 45), MF-Kyle Beckerman (Capt.), MF-Javier Morales (Andy Williams 39), MF-Will Johnson; FW-Robbie Findley (Álvaro Saborío 78), FW-Fabián Espíndola.

Seattle Sounders FC – GK-Kasey Keller (Capt.); DF-James Riley, DF-Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, DF-Tyrone Marshall, DF-Leo Gonzalez (Tyson Wahl 48); MF-Pat Noonan, MF-Brad Evans, MF-Osvaldo Alonso, MF-Steve Zakuani (Roger Levesque 78); FW-Freddie Ljungberg, FW-Fredy Montero (Nathan Sturgis 73)

Misconduct Summary:
SEA – Tyrone Marshall (caution, Reckless Tackle) 56
RSL – Chris Wingert (caution, Tactical Foul) 60

Referee: Abby Okulaja
Referee’s Assistants: Frank Anderson, Steven Taylor
4th official: Tyler Ploeger

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