SEATTLE — If points were given for difficulty, the Seattle Sounders surely deserve a couple extra.
The Sounders were forced to play a man down for 60 minutes and needed to use a makeshift backline that featured two natural midfielders playing out of position, but still managed to salvage a 0-0 tie with Real Salt Lake on Wednesday.
“We wanted a win and I wouldn’t exactly say we’re satisfied, but given the circumstances we can feel happy that we gave our best effort,” Sounders midfielder Alex Caskey told MLSsoccer.com.
The primary reason for the Sounders’ precarious position was Zach Scott picking up a pair of yellow cards by the 30th minute. Seeing his first league action in more than a month and playing center back for just the fourth time all year, Scott’s first came when he pulled down Fabián Espíndola on a breakaway in the 15th minute. The other came on a tackle from behind on Javier Morales.
Although Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said he was OK with the yellows on Scott, he did take issue with referee Ricardo Salazar allowing a corner kick to be taken deep into stoppage and felt Chris Schuler should have been shown a red card instead of a yellow when he pulled down Fredy Montero on a breakaway in the 51st minute.
“I thought we were hard done by officiating all night in certain regards,” Schmid said. “It just seems that whenever there was something 50/50, we didn’t get the break.”
Forced to scramble, the Sounders made the most of it.
Brad Evans, who was already out of position when he started at right back for the first time since 2009, ultimately ended up playing center back. Moving into Evans’ vacated position was Mike Seamon, a third-year player whose last league appearance came in 2010 as a midfielder.
The Sounders defense still managed to pick up their third straight shutout and have now gone 330 minutes without conceding a goal. It’s their second-longest shutout streak of the season and gives them 12 clean sheets on the year, second most in MLS.
To preserve the tie, the Sounders did need a couple huge saves from Michael Gspurning in stoppage time. The first came when Schuler was able to squeeze off a left-footed shot that Gspurning parried over the crossbar. A minute later, Gspurning was forced into action again when Sebastian Velasquez ripped a low shot that deflected off a defender that Gspurning deflected with his right foot.
In a weird way, the early red card may have actually worked in the Gspurning’s favor.
“I have to say the red card was like a wakeup call,” Gspurning said. “In the beginning, I was thinking it was a little bit like a friendly game. Then the emotions came into game and it personally helped me to be awake all the time.”
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.