1 – Jason Kreis is not concerned about Real Salt Lake’s lack of goals
They haven’t scored in more than 400 minutes, but Kreis is focused first and foremost on the defense. You can’t lose if you’re still posting zeros.
And RSL have posted a bunch of them – nine in their last 12 games across all competitions, as a matter of fact. On Friday they had to rely a bit more than they wanted to on goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who had a performance for the ages despite suffering a broken nose midway through the second half, but they were also able to play keep-ball for long stretches and really made Seattle earn the chances that they got.
That said, this 0-0 draw in the first leg of the Western Conference semifinals was a very different performance than last month’s 0-0 regular season draw in Seattle. Both teams were sharper, and neither side looked very much like a team that’s in any kind of scoring rut.
They just looked like teams that were up against two of the best goalkeepers in the league. And the scoreboard agreed.
The Sounders in full flight are one of the most fun teams in the league to watch, but RSL are very good at preventing them from getting out and on the run. That’s why Seattle are 0-3-1 with no goals scored against Real in all competitions this season.
But they started to find some purchase in the second half by playing the ball centrally, drawing the defense, then spraying passes to the flanks. It’s a risky ploy because a bad turnover in that spot could end up in a breakout headed in the other direction, but when you’ve gone four games without scoring against the same opponent, some risks are worth it.
The other thing that made it effective was getting speed into the game. Neither Mario Martinez nor Steve Zakuani had one particular stand-out moment, but their presence made RSL’s fullbacks play deeper and more cautiously. The butterfly effect of that is they’re then not always in a great position to help out in possession, which means more turnovers, which means… well, ideally for the men in Rave Green, it means one or two of those jailbreaks that have been missing vs. Real so far.
Look, it’s not hockey. You can’t ride a hot goalkeeper like the Buffalo Sabres used to ride Dominik Hasek.
But it shouldn’t be this hard to score. It just shouldn’t.
“Jeez. Big-time credit to both goalkeepers, right?” Kreis said afterward.
Uh, yeah. Rimando obviously was the star, but Seattle’s Michael Gspurning is so, so good at coming off his line to cut down angles on shots and – more importantly – cut out crosses and through balls. Gspurning’s highlights aren’t as spectacular because he’s so good at putting out the fire before it’s even really been lit.
That’s why these games, which feature some of the best attackers in the league, keep ending 0-0. Anything less than the very best on Friday, and that wouldn’t have been the case.