SEATTLE — Well, that’s got to be one of the worst possible ways for the season to end at this point. The Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake played to a scoreless draw through regulation and extra time before a David Ochoa save on Kelyn Rowe’s penalty and Justen Glad’s shot was deflected off the post and in on the sixth round of penalty kicks, sending RSL through to the next round. Seattle were dominant, to put it lightly, throughout the game, but couldn't find the back of the net.
Through the 120 minutes before penalties Seattle had 62% of possession and took 21 shots to RSL’s zero, but the lack of finishing ultimately let the squad down. To make matters worse, Cristian Roldan was on the receiving end of a set of studs and seemed to have been potentially injured, but he managed to see out the rest of the game. For RSL, a trip to face Sporting Kansas City in the Western Conference Semifinal is up next. For Seattle the offseason starts now, and it’s a pretty short one. The 2022 season starts in just over three months when the Sounders host Nashville SC on Feb. 27.
9’ — Jordan Morris intercepts a pass near midfield and drives at the RSL defense, but his ball across the box is too far from Fredy Montero and too close to David Ochoa.
15’ — Seattle get off a couple good looks quick succession as Morris and Cristian Roldan both get shots off from dangerous spots, but Ochoa is up to the task again.
50’ — Shane O’Neill steals the ball AGAIN in midfield and drives at the RSL defense, trying a couple times to put someone through but Morris’s eventual shot is off the mark.
73’ — Raúl Ruidíaz uncorks one from outside the box and has Ochoa beat, but rattles the crossbar rather than the back of the net.
78’ — Cristian Roldan wins a free kick near RSL’s endline after battling with Justin Meram. João Paulo’s service finds Yeimar Gómez Andrade, but his header is saved.
90’ — A Kelyn Rowe shot is deflected out for a corner. Cristian Roldan connects with João Paulo's corner, but the header is just wide.
105’ +2 — Sustained pressure and several Sounders corner kicks eventually produces a rifled shot from O’Neill, but it’s hit well over the goal.
Sounders PK 1 — Raúl Ruidíaz sends Ochoa the wrong way and finishes to his right. 1-0
RSL PK 1 — Stefan Frei guesses the right way but his dive doesn’t stop the shot. 1-1
Sounders PK 2 — João Paulo blasts it down the middle and over Ochoa. 2-1
RSL PK 2 — After the initial save, the PK is retaken and Frei gets beat to his left. 2-2
Sounders PK 3 — AB Cissoko steps up and easily sends it to his left. 3-2
RSL PK 3 — Frei dives to his left, but the penalty is hit into the roof. 3-3
Sounders PK 4 — Alex Roldan confidently hammers his penalty in to the top of the net. 4-3
RSL PK 4 — Frei doesn’t move as RSL’s fourth penalty rolls in to his right. 4-4
Sounders PK 5 — Nico Lodeiro beats a diving Ochoa to Lodeiro’s right. 5-4
RSL PK 5 — Frei hops and dives to his right as the ball passes through the space he left. 5-5
Sounders PK 6 — Kelyn Rowe goes to his right, but Ochoa guesses right and stops it. 5-5
RSL PK 6 — Frei dives to his right and pushes it off the post, but it rolls across goal and in off the opposite post. 5-6 RSL
Oops, all misses: Seattle took plenty of shots, loads of them. The Sounders managed to take 21 shots, and 16 of them came from inside RSL’s 18-yard box. They only put three of those on target, which doesn’t really mean anything, but the point is that David Ochoa got to be as clownish as he wanted without ever really having to work for it. Even once Brian Schmetzer was able to get his stars into the game they got into good, dangerous spots, but at every turn they missed their chances. Sometimes it was a poor pass from a good spot that didn’t lead to anything or a shot that was too easily dealt with, but it was an experience that grew all too familiar after the squad’s raucous start to the season. Some of that was a result of missing players, but this team has much more talent than the last couple of months showed.
Shane O’Neill, folks: I have been vocally critical of Shane O’Neill throughout the last two seasons. He’s simply not been a player who inspired confidence on either side of the ball, in my opinion, and while he was a steady presence he felt considerably below what I felt the standard for a starting centerback on the Sounders ought to be. That certainly wasn’t the case tonight! O’Neill was everywhere against RSL, constantly marauding forward, disrupting RSL’s attacks before they even began and helping to keep the Sounders on the front foot. Beyond his defensive contributions, he also popped up with a shot and two key passes. This was easily O’Neill’s best game in a Sounders jersey, and it’s unfortunate it ended the way it did.
Positives within the pain: Seattle had to start with two of their best players on the bench, while Jordan Morris was starting and played 104 minutes as he continues to return from injury. It doesn’t particularly help right now, but it seems like the injuries involved are now in the past, and the Sounders should be able to head into the 2022 season with those players fully healthy. On top of that, Josh Atencio came in for extra time to allow Kelyn Rowe to move to left wingback and looked a lot more like the dominant midfielder who jumped out at the start of the season than the young player struggling to make a positive impact we occasionally saw down the stretch. The team, as currently constructed, only has so much time remaining in the current window, but there’s no reason to think they won’t be pushing for a championship again in a year’s time.
Did you see that?!?
Shane O’Neill, rampaging playmaker.
He said what?!?
Schmetzer: ‘throw all those stats out the window. I didn’t think we had it in the final third. I think we failed at getting it all to mesh.’— Jeremiah Oshan (@JeremiahOshan) November 24, 2021
One stat to tell the tale
0 — This was the first time in an MLS team has gone 120 minutes without allowing a single shot. Not that it did much good...
Man of the match