Sandy, Utah - The slaughtering handed out by Real Salt Lake in the first leg of the home-and-home MLS Western Conference semifinals to the higher-seeded Seattle Sounders shows that they are a squad to be reckoned with during the playoffs.
Fans in Seattle might be unhappy, not only by their team's performance, but by the fact the second- and third-highest points total teams are squaring off with each other to start the playoffs. This is opposed to the easier path Eastern Conference teams have, if one looks at regular season success.
Salt Lake's complete domination in every facet of the game culminated in a resounding 3-0 victory in front of a nearly-packed house at Rio Tinto Stadium. Many analysts had Seattle as the second-best team in the playoffs, behind the L.A. Galaxy, but they played back on their heels from the start, with RSL having a flurry of chances within the first few minutes of the game.
The first of the three goals came from Alvaro Saborio on a controversial offside non-call. Further replays showed he was almost exactly even, however Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid was quoted by Fox Soccer Channel as saying it was a miscall.
Coming out of the half time break, the same story was unfolding as RSL laid right back into Seattle, resulting in a wonder strike from Saborio, by way of a heel flick. Seattle’s MLS Cup dreams may now be fading thanks to a rebound opportunity which Ned Grabavoy buried in the back of the net.
Seattle will need to win by at least three goals at home versus Salt Lake, or the team who many thought had a realistic chance of lifting the MLS Cup will be eliminated after only one playoff round.
The most startling statistic of the night was RSL out-shooting Seattle by an 11 to 0 margin—it's hard to win games when you don’t have a shot on goal. The way the Real defense was able to stifle the Sounders was remarkable, even after the injuries to both center-backs Nat Borchers and Jamison Olave.
Real controlled the middle of the field—this was the key area which separated the two squads. Kyle Beckerman of RSL shined as he was able to shutdown most every attacking opportunity which came his way, and also spring the attack for them on the other end of the pitch.
If Real is able to keep up the excellent form in Seattle on Wednesday, they could have gained all the momentum they need to win the MLS Cup. At this point it would take a monumental effort from Seattle to battle back in a game, which may be the last for their stellar veteran goalkeeper Kasey Keller.