Missing three players due to international call-ups and being short two more due to injury concerns, RSL were dealt their first loss in 13 games, falling 4-0 to the Seattle Sounders on Saturday at CenturyLink Field.
The Sounders, who were missing two of their own stars due to international duty, got goals from Gonzalo Pineda, Marco Pappa, Chad Barrett and Obafemi Martins to stretch their lead in the Western Conference to five points over RSL. The Sounders have now gone 2-0-1 in matches without their international contingent and lead the Supporters’ Shield race with 29 points.
Although the final score looked like a rout, the first 40-odd minutes were tightly contested with the two teams combining for just one shot and about 20 fouls.
The Sounders appropriately opened the scoring given their emerging edge in the match, albeit through a dubious penalty. After nimble feet by Pappa on the sideline, Brad Evans sent a dangerous cross into the penalty area and Barrett kept the play alive with a header. Lamar Neagle was first to it, but his first touch sent the ball toward goal where RSL goalkeeper Jeff Attinella appeared in position to kill the danger. But as Attinella reached for the ball, Neagle poked it free. As Neagle raced to the loose ball, defender Aaron Maund knocked him over with what seemed to be shoulder-to-shoulder contact.
For the second straight game, Pineda immediately took the ball, blasting his shot into the side netting despite Attinella guessing the right way.
“I came out, called Tony [Beltran] off of it, though I had it and then next thing I know I didn’t," said Attinella. "I tried to scramble and find the ball. I thought Aaron (Maund) did a good job of going shoulder to shoulder with him but obviously the ref thought differently and it definitely changed the game. It is what it is; you can’t leave it up to a call. Maybe I should have gone through him but I thought I had the ball but who knows. Obviously he saw it better than I did.”
“When it’s hard fought, it’s the 42nd minute, it’s a very even match at a tough place to play, then that – it is a little deflating," said head coach Jeff Cassar. "But I thought our guys came out hungry and were trying to get back in the game. We weren’t accepting 1-0 down, but it just wasn’t our day. Credit to Seattle for capitalizing on our mistakes.”
That sent RSL into halftime trailing for just the second time this season.
The late first half goal sparked the Sounders after the restart. Just seven minutes after halftime, Pappa curled in a beautiful free kick from about 25 yards out, bending his shot over the wall and just inside the near post.
The Sounders put the match away in the 62nd minute on Barrett’s third goal of the season and capped the scoring with a Martins tap in during stoppage time. The resounding score line marked the third time this season the Sounders netted at least four goals in a match.
“To be honest with you, 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," Cassar said. "But I thought the commitment level was there. It was a very even match in the first half for sure. Two dead ball situations – the PK and the free kick – then the rest was just breaks on counters. It’s a tough place to play and we don’t have a full arsenal, but I thought the guys out there did a very good job.”
Real Salt Lake fell to 6-1-6 (24 points) and next play on June 4 at the Columbus Crew at 5:30 on CW-30 before closing out their pre-break schedule with a home game against the Portland Timbers on June 7.
“Either way I think that we’re going to bounce back," said defender Nat Borchers. "They didn’t crush us 4-0 beleaguered. The actual way the game was played, and I think that we’ve got some good games ahead of us and it’ll be important to respond for sure.”