Same old playoff struggles loom for goalless Sounders
SEATTLE – Another playoff game, another frustrating result.
The Seattle Sounders managed to create plenty of chances, but ran into a red-hot goalkeeper and were forced to settle for a 0-0 draw with Real Salt Lake on Friday. It was the fourth straight year in which the Sounders failed to get the result they wanted in their home leg of the Western Conference semifinals.
It also means they'll need to get their first-ever road playoff win in order to qualify for their first conference final.
"We don't have any other option: It's win or win," midfielder Osvaldo Alonso said through a translator. "That's the way we'll be able to advance."
To do that, they'll need to figure out a way to score against RSL. In four matches this season, that's something the Sounders have failed to do.
They can at least take some solace that this time it took some outstanding work by RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
Rimando made five saves, most of them spectacular, and managed to effectively play the final 20 minutes after breaking his nose on a 66th minute collision that also required him to get several stitches after the game. Among Rimando's saves were three close-range headers and another in which he came off his line to cut down the angle on Brad Evans' otherwise open look from about 10 yards out in the 25th minute.
"When you're creating chances, that's the object of the game at the end of the day," Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said. "Obviously, finishing that is the quality."
It was in that final stage where Seattle most felt Eddie Johnson's absence, as the two players who replaced him each missed golden opportunities. Sammy Ochoa had a wide open look in the 50th minute from about 10 yards out that he sailed over the crossbar and David Estrada whiffed on a shot with an open goal in front of him following a Fredy Montero flick in the 85th minute.
"The ball didn't want to go in today," said Ochoa, who came within inches of scoring in the first half only to see Rimando tip his header over the crossbar. "These playoff games are about whoever puts it away is going to go through. We just have to hope next game we finish our chances because we might just have one and that one may be the difference."
The frustrations aside, Schmid found some reasons to be encouraged heading into Thursday's second leg.
"We have to build on what was good," he said. "What was good was we created chances. What was good was we kept them at bay for the majority of the game. What was good was we worked very hard. The fans saw the effort that we put in and the performance we put forth. If we play the same way in Salt Lake, I think we come away with the result."