SEATTLE - Sounders rookie Jake Besagno made his professional debut a memorable one when he scored the game winner with his first touch on the ball within seconds of coming into the match as a second half substitute, Preston Burpo made several crucial saves to give Seattle a 1-0 victory over Major League Soccer's Real Salt Lake in an exhibition match Wednesday night at Qwest Field.
The match marked the return of former Sounder and 2002 A-League MVP Leighton O'Brien, as he suited up against his former team for the first time. The match also featured the 2005 MLS number one draft pick and Maple Valley, Wash., native Nik Besagno, who is Jake Besagno's younger brother.
The Real Salt Lake squad included several developmental players as many of its regular starters did not make the trip to Seattle, including Trinidad and Tobago international Leslie Fitzpatrick, MLS veteran and Jamaican international Andy Williams, and MLS and U.S. Men's National Team regulars Eddie Pope and Clint Mathis. Jason Kreis, the MLS all-time leading goal scorer, spent the game on the bench.
A well-played first half saw no goals but no shortage of chances for both teams, the best and majority of which fell to the Sounders, who dominated the later stages of the half.
Roger Levesque and Welton Melo were active up front for Seattle, and midfielder Brent Whitfield gave them good support down the right side, as the three offense-minded players were responsible for all of Seattle best scoring opportunities.
On RSL's side, MLS veterans Dipsy Selolwane and Chris Brown, and youngster Jordan Cila were the danger men and at the forefront of the attack.
Both teams spent the first 25 minutes working the midfield and feeling each other out. The Sounders won three corner kicks in that span but were unable to threaten RSL goalkeeper Jay Nolly. Starting with the 28th minute, however, Seattle enjoyed a five-minute period in which they attacked the RSL goal from all sides and produced several quality scoring chances.
In the 29th, Whitfield was played into the penalty area along the right side and centered to Welton, who carried in around his defender before leaving the ball for a wide-open Whitfield, who cracked a fierce, one-time drive right at the 'keeper, but Nolly stood his ground well to knock the shot away.
Two minutes later, midfielder C.J. Klaas got behind the RSL defense and charged in alone on goal. Nolly came out to the edge of his area and broke up the play, but collided with defender Matt Behnke in the process. Levesque followed up on the loose ball with the open goal gaping in front of him, but drilled the rebound right into the fallen pile of Nolly and Behnke and the ball bounced harmlessly away.
In the 32nd, midfielder Kevin Sakuda carried into the of the left side of the penalty and drew in the RSL defense before slotting a neat through ball that was just a touch too far for Welton, who was right on the doorstep, and Nolly scooped up the ball easily.
RSL struck back four minutes later through Chris Brown, who chased down a long ball down the right side and carried to the end line before cutting a nice ball back for Cila, but Brown's effort was wasted as Cila skied his shot from the top of the penalty area well over the bar.
In the 39th, Brown threatened again when his cross from the right side found Selolwane with his back to goal at the top of Burpo's six-yard box. Selolwane turned to shoot but was tightly marked by defender Zach Scott, and the ball was promptly cleared out.
The second half saw the professional debuts of the Besagno brothers - Nik for RSL and Jake for Seattle. Both would have vastly different impacts on the game, however. Nik Besagno came in at the start of the half, and 10 minutes later was shown a yellow card for a hard foul on Sounders defender Ryan Edwards, whereas his older brother Jake came in at the 66th minute and scored the lone goal within seconds of entering the match.
Before the goal, however, Seattle and RSL traded two quality scoring chances that could have easily gone in. In the 52nd, Klaas sent in a well-struck corner kick that defender Taylor Graham headed right at Nolly, who held his ground to make the save before his defense cleared the ball out.
Ten minutes later, Selolwane took a pass from midfielder Kevin Nowak deep into the Seattle penalty and made enough room for himself to unleash a rasping drive 10 yards from goal, but Burpo was well-position to parry the shot to safety.
The game's only goal came in four minutes later off a Klaas free kick from 30 yard out. Besagno had just come into the game for Edwards, and positioned himself at the far post. Klaas sent in a great ball that skimmed over the defense to an unmarked Besagno, who tapped the ball in with his knee from point-blank range past a stranded Nolly for a deserved 1-0 Sounders lead.
RSL pressed hard for the equalizer, and in the 70th had their best chance of the game when O'Brien's 30 yard free kick from the left side was volleyed across goal by Novak to forward Jamie Watson at the top of the six-yard box. His one-time effort looked destined for the back of the net, but Burpo got down superbly to keep the ball out and RSL off the score sheet.
Substitute Brett Wiesner had a great chance to double Seattle's lead eight minutes later when he broke in alone on goal. Wiesner attempted to chip Nolly as he came out to cover the angles, but Nolly did well to get a hand to the ball and knock it away.
In the game's final minutes, RSL had two golden opportunities to tie the game. In the 89th, Nik Besagno got on the end of an O'Brien free kick and redirected it on goal - a hard drive that Burpo somehow smothered with a great reaction save.
Then in stoppage time, Selolwane weaved his way through the midfield before splitting the Seattle defense with a great through ball that sent Watson in alone on goal. RSL's final chance to equalize went begging, however, as Watson fired his shot well over Burpo's goal.
Seattle's next game is Saturday, May 14 at Qwest Field as they host the Charleston Battery at 7 p.m. For ticket information, call (206) 622-3415 or visit www.seattlesounders.net.
Seattle Sounders vs. Real Salt Lake
May 11, 2005
Weather: Cloudy, 50s.
Seattle Sounders 0 1 1 Real Salt Lake 0 0 0
SEA: Preston Burpo, Ryan Edwards (Jake Besagno - 66), Taylor Graham, Zach Scott, Kevin Sakuda, Brent Whitfield (Ben Somoza - 61), C.J. Klaas, Scott Jenkins (Josh Hansen - 77), Roger Levesque (Brett Wiesner - 75), Welton Melo (Franklin Chacon - 68).
Unused substitutes: James Ward.
Head coach: Brian Schmetzer.
RSL: Jay Nolly, Seth Trembly, Matt Behncke, Brian Dunseth (Mike Lookingland - 46), Sergio Flores, Evan Whitfield (Luke Kreamalmayer - 46), Ken Cutler (Nik Besagno - 46), Leighton O'Brien, Chris Brown (Kevin Novak - 46), Dipsy Selolwane, Jordan Cila (Jamie Watson - 46).
Unused substitutes: Noah Palmer, Jason Kreis.
Head coach: John Ellinger.
SEA - YC; Taylor Graham (69), Josh Hansen(88), Brett Wiesner(90)
RSL - YC; Evan Whitfield (45), Nik Besagno (50), Matt Behncke (87)