Sounders wallop RSL to stay atop Western Conference

GonzaloPinedaSeattleSounders2 (Getty)

By JASON MITCHELL

SEATTLE — No Clint Dempsey. No DeAndre Yedlin. No problem.

In a battle of shorthanded teams sporting the best records in MLS, the Seattle Sounders got all the scoring they needed on a controversial 42nd-minute Gonzalo Pineda penalty kick, then poured in second-half goals to top Real Salt Lake 4-0 in front of 39,245 at CenturyLink Field.

A message to the league?

“Right now we’re not about sending messages,” said Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid. “We’re in first place. We want to hold on to first place. We spoke about creating some separation. As a group we’re maturing. Being able to step into a game between a first-place team and a second-place team and win—and have a convincing result—speaks volumes for our character.”

Salazar, reffing his first Seattle match in almost 12 months, awarded the penalty after Aaron Maund nudged Lamar Neagle down in the penalty area. Replays showed the tackle may have been shoulder-to-shoulder, and that goalkeeper Jeff Attinella may have had both hands on the ball before Neagle toed it away to earn the penalty.

“I don’t feel like it was a PK,” said Real Salt Lake head coach Jeff Cassar. “Neither does Aaron. Any time you leave your feet, you leave it up to the referee to make that call. I think he was kind of going away from goal a little bit.”

“I thought it was a penalty. Definitely,” said Neagle. “We had a little scuffle at the top of the box, the ball squirted out from the goalie’s hands. I got a little touch to it, and I saw [Maund] coming and I knew he was angry, so I just stepped in front the ball and stopped and he ran right through me. It was a pretty easy call for the ref, I think.”

“[I] thought I had it,” said Attinella, “and then next thing I know I didn’t.”

Marco Pappa doubled the lead in the 55th minute, converting a beautiful free kick from more than 20 yards out. It was the Guatemalan midfielder’s first goal since returning to MLS from the Eredivisie in the offseason.

The Sounders were only halfway done.

Chad Barrett added his second goal in as many matches just seven minutes later, one-touching a short cross from Neagle past Attinella for the 3-0 lead. The shot deflected off Maund as he tried to clear his line, but the Notre Dame product couldn’t get enough leg on it.

Obafemi Martins polished off the match in the 90th minute, tapping a short cross from late substitute Kenny Cooper into an empty net.

“I was very happy for Oba’,” said Schmid. “I thought he was a little bit snakebit today.”

Osvaldo Alonso nearly added a fifth goal in stoppage time, sailing a wide-open shot over the crossbar from 12 yards out.

“It was a tight game in the first half, as it is sometimes when top teams play each other,” said Schmid. “Nobody wants to give an inch. In the second half, as guys fatigued a little bit things settled down and opened up.”

“To be honest with you,” said Cassar, “I just told the guys to discount the third and fourth goals, because we were pushing and we knew we were going to be exposed at the back.”

With the best record in the league on the line, Seattle (9-3-2, 29 points), overcame a sluggish start that saw the two teams combine for just three first-half shots. The Sounders have now won seven of their last nine matches and five straight at home.

Real Salt Lake (6-1-6, 24 points), came into the match tied with three other teams for the longest unbeaten start in league history. It’s a record they won’t break, and the team now faces two more matches in the next week while shorthanded.

Injuries and international duty robbed both lineups of key players, somewhat dulling what promised to be a marquee match. Seattle took the field missing not only Dempsey and Yedlin, and but also starting center back Djimi Traore. Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando, Joao Plata, and Alvaro Saborio were all absent for RSL.

For his part, Schmid said the thinned rosters didn’t diminish the importance of the win.

“It’s two teams playing soccer,” he said. “They were missing some guys, we were missing some guys. I never think about that or worry about that.”

Thanks to a three-game road trip and a three-week break for the World Cup, the Sounders won’t a play league match at home again until they host the Portland Timbers on July 13. Seattle does host fifth-tier side PSA Elite in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup on June 18, although that match will be played at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Washington.

Looking forward, Real Salt Lake visits the Columbus Crew (4-4-4, 16 points) on Wednesday, while the Sounders face the Chicago Fire (2-3-6, 12 points) on the road next weekend.

The teams play again on August 16 at Rio Tinto Stadium and wrap up the season series in September at CenturyLink Field.

Here are the match highlights:

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11 Responses to Sounders wallop RSL to stay atop Western Conference

  1. SydneySounder says:

    Games like this always make for a good morning.

  2. reignman says:

    When it first happened I thought the PK was soft, it looked shoulder to shoulder but when watching replays it fairly clearly was into the back, at least from the angles I saw. Barrett has scored 3 goals this year and actually played well overall, I was wrong about that move. Pappa is starting to round into form nicely, he’s had a couple good games in a row. Hopefully Seattle isn’t peaking way too early again this year though. RSL should just write this game off, these results happen once in a while and dwelling on them too long only hurts you.

    • KingGoogleyEye says:

      Ditto about Pappa: he looks every bit a part of this team now. Will that cost Neagle when Dempsey returns? I have to think so.

      • reignman says:

        Doubtful, Dempsey will bump Barrett out. They played with Neagle on the right and Pappa on the left early this year. I would expect a 4-4-1-1 when Dempsey returns

        • divers suck says:

          The real question is who is Yedlin going to replace. The rearguard looks far more organized with Evans at RB than it ever did with Yedlin back there….

          • KingGoogleyEye says:

            In fairness, Yedlin mostly played with Traore as well. Can’t blame it all on Yedlin.

        • KingGoogleyEye says:

          reignman, divers suck got at what I was thinking: Dempsey replaces Barrett, but Yedlin comes back too—at right back, where Evans played today. No way will Evans be on the bench, so where does he go?

          Maybe he goes to LB ahead of Lea and Remick, but more likely he goes into the midfield: Alonso, Pineda, Pappa, Neagle. Who of those would you drop? (Hint: I’ve listed them in descending order….)

          • Troy in his apartment says:

            I think Neagle will find time because there will be injuries at some point or at least guys needing a rest, In an optimal 11, for balance, maybe Neagle comes off the bench but I think he will start most matches, Essentially you can start the 11 without Neagle every few matches and then have Neagle come on for Pappa to give him a breather, for Dempsey (not in his spot but stiill), for Martins, for Pineda (Evans slides from RM to CM with Alonso). Then like I said the matches where Neagle gets a break. That is without injuries which we all know will happen, someone will get a knock.

            Its also nice to have Evans who can give Yedlin breaks at RB, as I think Yedlin was a little mentally fatigued last year and has already had a long 365 days with playing all the games last year, then camp cupcake, then the start of the campaign, now the world cup (he’ll be training hard if anything). So Evans and Anibaba can cover there depending on injuries.

            Realistically the most worrisome spot for depth is the CB spots. Its crucial that Marshall stays healthy and fresh. Should be the main focus in the summer window, is acquiring a starting CB. That way you have a nice rotation. Traore can be effective when not being asked to play every match. He needs to play 2 out of every 3 and never on weekend-to-midweek matches.

            The 4 matches to start the year where Remick got his shot is working out fantastic. Essentially we have a PERFECT way, when we get a lead, to throw up a wall and I think Sigi is realizing that now. You can put Remick in at LM at the end and have Yedlin move up to RM or just have Evans there. Or you can slide Evans inside and have Anibaba go to RB. Yedlin at RM and have 6 defensive players, essentially 4 CB’s if you count Gonzalez and Yedlin and Remick at wing back stretching the field and countering. Then you have Alonso and Evans controlling the middle and have Oba and Dempsey doing their 1-2 at the end of games.

            This roster is constructed very well and its too bad we arent in CCL because I think we could make a real push. We just need that CB with the little bit of allocation we have and maybe moving someone like Bowen on or someone like that, who cant see the field.

            • Big Red says:

              Evans at RM. . . Let the downfall begin. The rest of the league can’t wait for Seattle to foolishly put Neagle on the bench again. Most of Seattle’s losses are when Evans plays midfield. Maybe you can get creative and move him to center back. If Evans wasn’t Schmid’s long lost child, Seattle might have won a couple MLS cups by now.

              • Quit whining about US soccer says:

                I agree with most of this
                Maybe not as firmly as you do, but I put Evans at LB.

              • milbo says:

                Rubbish.. Evans has little to do with poor long term performance in the playoffs. That’s Sigi’s legacy of picking the wrong field players for the given schedule..