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Nov 3, 2012

Sounders, Real Salt Lake draw

SEATTLE -- Nick Rimando did everything he could to slow down Seattle on Friday night.

The Real Salt Lake goalkeeper made five saves, and Seattle's Michael Gspurning had four and the teams finished in a scoreless draw in the first leg of their MLS Western Conference semifinal playoff series.

The second leg between second-seeded Real Salt Lake and third-seeded Seattle will be played Nov. 8 in Utah.

In three regular-season matches and Friday's playoff opener, the teams have managed one goal between them, scored by Fabian Espindola in RSL's 1-0 victory at Seattle on May 12.

Rimando, who has 10 playoff shutouts in his career, played the last 19 minutes of the game with a bandage alongside his right eye after a hard collision in the box with Seattle's Christian Tiffert. Rimando was on the ground for nearly five minutes before play resumed.

He didn't know what actually happened until someone told him after the game.

"The ball came in, I committed for the ball, and the next thing I know, I'm on the ground," Rimando said. "I heard it was Tiffert, and it wasn't intentional -- he just followed through with the forearm and got me."

Backup goalkeeper Kyle Reynish warmed up, but Rimando was able to continue.

"We thought he was going to have to come out. I thought it was going to be a laceration where they couldn't get the blood stopped," Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis said. "But they did a good job of getting it stopped, and he continued on with a real brave effort."

Rimando had saves on two point-blank shots by the Sounders late in the first half.

First, he deflected a header by Sammy Ochoa onto the top of his net in the 33rd minute. Then on the ensuing corner kick, he stopped a 6-yard shot from straight in front by Seattle's Jhon Kennedy Hurtado.

Rimando then stopped a David Estrada shot on the goal line near the end of the 85th minute.

"That would have to go down as one of the single-best individual performances of anyone that has ever worn an RSL jersey," Kreis said.

Seattle's Gspurning, whose 0.73 goals-against average was the best in MLS, also had two nice stops.

Early in the 24th minute, Gspurning came all the way out to the top of his penalty area and slid to knock the ball off the foot of Real Salt Lake's Nick Gravaboy. In the 85th minute, Gspurning jumped to his right to save a diving header by RSL's Paulo Junior.

"We left everything out on the pitch today," Gspurning said. "We fought, we played good, we created chances. The only thing we didn't do was score a goal. (Rimando) played a great game -- awesome saves. He was one reason we didn't score."

Both teams were missing some of their goal-scoring prowess. Sounders forward Eddie Johnson, who had a team-record 14 goals during the regular season, did not play because of a left abductor strain that he hurt during last Sunday's regular-season finale at Los Angeles.

The Sounders have been shut out in three of their four home playoff games since joining MLS in 2009.

"All you can do is create chances, but I was pleased with how we played," Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. "After the injury to Rimando, it killed a lot of clock, obviously, but it really killed the momentum a little bit. I thought it took us a while to get back in the flow after that. Prior to that, we were really all over them. I'd be more concerned if we weren't creating chances."

This is the second straight year the Sounders and Salt Lake have met in the conference semifinals. RSL won last year's series on aggregate, 3-2.

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