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Despite a nil-nil draw against Real Salt Lake the Seattle Sounders are still in charge of their destiny. If they win out they are nearly certain to capture the two seed due to tiebreakers. Seattle is +2 in goals scored over RSL so a tie on points results in a better seed for Sounders.
There were many frustrations. Many Sounders fans will be frustrated with the two yellows for Zach Scott. The national impression is that he earned them. If that is taken at a truth, then the lens of the game changes. If you take those calls as decent but arguable the impression of the match changes.
Then the match is judged with Seattle playing a man down with three converted midfielders along the backline and maintaining a clean sheet. Injuries and Cards may have forced it but Brad Evans, Marc Burch and forgotten man Michael Seamon earned the shutout with the help of Gspurning and Parke.
Yes, Real Salt Lake lost their best attacking player. So did Seattle. There aren't excuses for Salt Lake. They had a clear advantage for two thirds of the match and just got nil-nil. Did Seattle have home-field advantage? Sure, that nearly makes up for being down a man, but only nearly.
Injuries happen. International call-ups happen. Crappy (or non-crappy) referees happen. Broadcasting bias happens. And yet at the end of 90 minutes very little changed. If Seattle wins out they are nearly certain to take second place, for Salt Lake would need to score five goals or have a goal differential of plus seven in their only remaining game. Backing into the CCL is nearly dead though. The Eastern teams have too many points.
This game though showed that Seattle's collection of Swiss Army knives is better than a quality side's specialists. Evans, Seamon, Burch and Estrada are not just role flexible, they are all better defensively than their natural position assumes. Against the 6th best offense in the league (roughly equally weakened) a team with six or seven natural midfielders stopped the RSL attack.
Frustration at a nil-nil point?
But Seattle's corkscrew, fish-scaler, tweezers and toothpick managed to beat a dagger and a dirk. Confidence going into the MLS Cup Playoffs? Evans says this result will help, "... everybody is used to playing with each other in different roles and different positions. At practice we play the game, 5 on 5 and teas are totally random, so you can end up with five defenders ad five attacking players. So you just have to figure it out and play that role. When everybody knows their role it makes things easy, especially when you're playing out of position and understand that role, it's only going to benefit us. Those are the types of guys that the coaching staff and front office brought in; smart players who can play multiple positions. It doesn't do us any use if we just have three centerbacks and that's it. when you have guys who can play multiple positions, it helps us out."
Destiny is in Seattle's hands. With two games left in the regular season, against two quality sides, the Sounders can still finish as high as second and as low as fourth. This is a lesson. The question is what did Sigi and the team learn? Besides how big their fine will be, because there will be fines.