SEATTLE – Michael Gspurning and Nick Rimando each were at the top of their games, combining for nine saves as the Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake settled for their third 0-0 draw of the season on Friday night, this one in the first leg of the Western Conference Semifinals.
While both 'keepers had their share of highlights, Rimando was tested more often. His performance was made even more impressive by the fact that he played the final 20 minutes after a collision gave him a swollen eye and nearly knocked him out of the game.
The collision occurred in the 66th minute as Christian Tiffert battled with Kyle Beckerman to get on the end of a Mauro Rosales cross. Rimando came between them and took an elbow to his temple. He remained on the ground for about five minutes and managed to stay in the game despite a swelling eye.
The Sounders tested him with several crosses after that, but Rimando proved up to the task each time. The best chance to break the deadlock came in 85th minute when Fredy Montero flicked a ball to David Estrada at the far post, only for the substitute to whiff on the attempt.
Rimando's best moments came before the injury, though. Among them were diving stops off a pair of back-to-back corners in the 33rd minute. First, he stopped a Sammy Ochoa header and then moments later he robbed Jhon Kennedy Hurtado's diving effort.
Tiffert managed to get another strong header on goal from an Adam Johansson cross in the 51st minute. But Rimando dove to his right to stop the ball just before it crossed the goal line.
Not to be outdone, Gspurning turned his fair share of highlights as well.
The Austrian's first test came in the 23rd minute, coming out to the edge of the penalty area to make a slide tackle on a Ned Grabavoy breakaway.
Just two minutes later, Rimando made a similar play on Brad Evans. On a long diagonal ball from Marc Burch, Evans found himself unmarked inside the penalty area. His first touch was too strong, though, allowing Rimando to cut off the angle and stop the shot from about 10 yards out.
In a back-and-forth first half, Gspurning then made a quick reflex save with his left hand off a Will Johnson shot from about 14 yards out in the 38th minute.
Gspurning was tested one more time in the 85th minute, diving to his right to stop an Álvaro Saborío header that came as the Sounders were pushing hard for a goal.
That save ran RSL's scoreless streak to 332 minutes in MLS competition. It also meant that no goals had been scored in the last 299 minutes that these two teams have played against one another.
The two teams will now head back to Rio Tinto Stadium for the decisive second leg on Nov. 8.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Nick Rimando||Simply unreal. Made stunning saves throughout the match to keep RSL in the series heading back to Rio Tinto|
|2||Michael Gspurning||The Austrian wasn't too far off his counterpart's performance, and made a series of strong saves to similarly give Seattle a chance in the away leg|
|3||Kwame Watson-Siriboe||Stepped up with Olave starting on the bench and had the game of his life. Made a series of crucial blocks and interventions to complement Rimando's effort|