SANDY, Utah — Round 2 in the battle for Western Conference supremacy goes to Real Salt Lake.
On the strength of a second-half goal by Joao Plata and a Seattle own-goal created by Luis Gil and Luke Mulholland, the Claret and-Cobalt claimed a 2-1 win over Seattle and moved into first place in the West on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The win was also a moment of vengeance for RSL (11-4-9), who suffered a humbling 4-0 loss in Seattle on May 31. Second-half substitute Chad Barrett scored his fifth goal of the season for the Sounders (13-7-2), who struggled to find the equalizer over the final 20 minutes and have now lost three of their past four league games.
RSL are now unbeaten in their past six. The two teams will play for the third and final time during the regular season on Sept. 12 in Seattle.
Lightning struck for the second time in eight days for Plata in the 53rd minute, as the 5-foot-2 forward scored his second goal on a header in as many games. On a play set up when Sounders defender Zach Scott fouled RSL forward Olmes Garcia just outside the box, Plata got behind Seattle midfielder Lamar Neagle on Mulholland’s free kick and headed the ball in past Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
The goal was Plata’s 11th of the season, tops on RSL and third among Western Conference forwards.
Just four minutes later, RSL doubled the lead on an own-goal on Seattle midfielder Ozzie Alonso. Gil — playing at the top of the diamond in place of the injured Javier Morales — passed the ball to a streaking Mulholland cutting into the Seattle box, but Alonso accidentally deflected the ball in just before Seattle defenders could clear the the chance off the goal line.
Seattle pulled one back in the 72nd minute when RSL defenders Chris Schuler and Chris Wingert miscommunicated on a clearance and the ball fell to Seattle's Clint Dempsey. RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando saved Dempsey's point-blank shot, and Andy Rose hit the post on the first rebound before Barrett cleaned up the chance to inch Seattle to a 2-1 deficit.
But the Sounders never found the second goal, and are still stuck on just one win in seven regular season games all-times at Rio Tinto.
Both team had chances in the first half, but it was RSL that walked off the field at the break with a clear edge. Plata nearly scored numerous times and RSL controlled 62 percent of the possession in the first half against Seattle, who played for the second time in four days after their midweek win in the U.S. Open Cup and without suspended striker Obafemi Martins.
There’s little rest for either team, with the Sounders hosting the San Jose Earthquakes on Aug. 20 before a road match against the Portland Timbers on Aug. 24, while RSL play at FC Dallas on Aug. 22.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Joao Plata||More proof that RSL's best move of the past two seasons was to bring this guy to win balls out of the air.|
|2||Luke Mulholland||Went quiet in the last 20 minutes - most RSL players did - but was a revelation until then.|
|3||Nat Borchers||Steady as ever. Kenny Cooper never made a peep, and Borchers' positioning was spotless.|