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Real Salt Lake Weather Storm In Seattle

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Real Salt Lake carried a three goal lead into the second leg against the Seattle Sounders and they would need the whole thing before the end of the night. Seattle attacked from the first whistle and kept pressure on RSL until the final whistle. The home team controlled the game and almost all of the possession but were held back by some early injuries.

First Half

From the start it was clear that neither team was going to hold anything back and most of the first four minutes were spent with players lying injured on the ground. Brad Evans, Alvaro Saborio, Andy Williams, Fredy Montero and Alvaro Fernandez all spent some time rolling in the grass before the game had a chance to get underway. Both Evans and Fernandez would be pulled from the pitch inside the first twenty minutes after picking up knocks.

Real Salt Lake took to the field without their first choice center-back pairing of Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers due to injury. In their place were Chris Schuler and Chris Wingert while Tony Beltran filled in for Wingert at fullback. The changes in RSL’s defense had a noticeable effect throughout the night as Salt Lake continually had difficulty clearing the ball out of their defensive end. The constant pressure from Seattle’s forwards continuously created turnovers that the Sounders turned into attacks.

As the first half ground on play continued to get more and more physical. The Sounders thought they had broken through with ten minutes remaining in the half when a punched Nick Rimando clearance fell to Jeff Parke who struck it on the volley at a wide open goal, only to have Tony Beltran clear the ball away with a diving header. Six minutes later Seattle once again thought they had scored only to have the goal called back when it was revealed that Freddy Montero body-checked Nick Rimando as he came out of his goal for the ball. After all that and thanks to some downright heroic team defense that saw almost every player on the pitch get a chance to block a shot with his body, RSL kept their three goal lead through the first half.

Second Half

It seemed like the Sounders would have to let up from the breakneck pace at which they pressed RSL in the first half, but if anything they came out after the intermission pushing forward even harder. Salt Lake, on the other hand, came out of the half looking even more disorganized at the back and having even more trouble clearing the ball. Finally, after keeping the pressure on for the first fifty four minutes of the game, the Sounders were awarded a penalty kick after Mike Fucito went to ground between two defenders in the box in a classic "don’t give them a chance to call it" situation. Osvaldo Alonso took a penalty kick aimed squarely at the feet of Nick Rimando and somehow came away with the goal to make the series 3-1 on aggregate.

As in the first half, a second chance came only six minutes later. After another poor clearance gifted the ball back to Seattle, Fredy Montero collected the ball at the top of the box and slotted it through the RSL defense to Lamar Neagle alone on the far side of the box where he coolly slotted the ball home past Nick Rimando.

From there the pressure would only continue to mount on Salt Lake until the final fifteen minutes of the game when the energy seemed to suddenly drain from both sides. Where Seattle had been running at the RSL defense, they were now simply chucking long balls into the box with the faint hope that someone would latch onto one. With the slightest let up in the Seattle pressure, RSL managed to take back some small measure of control and were able to accomplish one feat that Seattle did not in the series’ first leg: Fabian Espindola broke down the right side of the field, beating his man to a ball and unleashed a shot that Kasey Keller parried away. It was RSL’s first shot of the match.

Finally, after five minutes of stoppage time, the game was called to a halt and RSL advance with the final score 3-2 on aggregate. Real Salt Lake will play the winners of L.A. Galaxy vs New York Red Bulls on Sunday.