A playoff spot is still a ways off, but the Seattle Sounders can once again start talking about making a run with a straight face. Although it wasn’t as smooth as it probably should have been — the Sounders easily could have scored five — they shook off some sloppy play to beat Real Salt Lake 2-1 on Sunday.
Once again, it was Nicolas Lodeiro in the middle of it all. The Uruguayan Designated Player scored the opener and had the primary assist on Jordan Morris’ game-winner.
Both teams hit the ground running in this match; Real Salt Lake had the first (rather weak) look at goal, and the Sounders created some great chances that they failed to finish. Some great work by Lodeiro and Joevin Jones allowed the left-back to get a great chance in front of goal, but his shot was blocked and he failed to effectively utilize the rebound. Osvaldo Alonso put Clint Dempsey through on goal soon after, but the forward was unable to beat the defender’s tackle and eventually earned a corner. A few tame chances came for both sides, but nothing of any real significance until the 24th minute.
That’s when some great work by Clint Dempsey got the ball to Andreas Ivanschitz outside the box, who passed it to Lodeiro near the middle; the Uruguayan curled it into the top corner out of Rimando’s reach to score his first Sounders goal. He nearly had another one minutes later, as Morris crossed it to him close to the six-yard box, but his shot went just wide of the post.
Not long after that first goal, some great work by Dempsey and Jones near the top of the box saw Dempsey get the ball to Lodeiro on the left flank. He then put in a high cross to Morris in the box, and the young forward powerfully headed it down and past Rimando for Seattle’s second goal. The rookie almost had another near the end of the half, when he was through on RSL’s goal and one-on-one with Rimando, but his subsequent shot went agonizingly wide of the post.
The second half started very brightly for Real Salt Lake, as they brought on their leading scorer Movsisyan in an attempt to get back into the match. Their shots mostly went over the bar, and Seattle’s nerves settled when Dempsey created a chance for himself out of thin air, but his shot ended up flying wide of the post. Lodeiro and Dempsey almost produced another, but Rimando was able to stop Dempsey’s shot and end the attack. RSL immediately got a counter-attack going in the other direction, only to have Frei make a sliding stop to seemingly end the danger.
Instead, disaster struck. After play was stopped to allow Jamison Olave to attend to an injury, RSL passed the ball back to Frei. On the restart, Movsisyan was able to stop Frei’s throw — whether or not the ball had actually left his hand was somewhat in doubt — and Joao Plata was able to score after a scramble.
Some stressful moments followed, only to have them seemingly relieved in the 80th minute.
Seattle earned a penalty after Roldan was tripped up in the box, but Dempsey’s penalty hit the underside of the crossbar and was eventually cleared away. A few more light chances popped up for both teams, but the Sounders managed to hold on for the 2-1 home win to extend their unbeaten run in the Brian Schmetzer era.
The Sounders also moved to within five points of the Portland Timbers — who currently occupy the sixth spot in the West — with two games in hand and two matches against their biggest rivals in the next couple weeks. The first of those games is on Sunday at CenturyLink Field.