The Sounders FC-Real Salt Lake playoff series echoed the clubs’ regular-season meetings: Goals were rare in each.
Now, Seattle can hope that the MLS Western Conference final against Los Angeles also mimics what came before, as the Sounders took two of three regular-season matches from the Galaxy – by a combined six goals to one.
The clubs begin their two-game, aggregate-score playoff series at 6 p.m. Sunday at Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. The series resolves one week later – 6 p.m. Nov. 18 – at CenturyLink Field.
The winner goes on to the MLS Cup final Dec. 1, meeting the winner of the D.C. United-Houston Dynamo series, which begins Sunday at Houston.
Seattle would host MLS Cup against the Dynamo but would travel to RFK Stadium if United advances.
The Sounders are thinking about such things, rather than packing away their equipment, because of a flash of brilliance by midfielder Mario Martinez, who scored the winning goal at RSL in the 81st minute. That also was the series winner because the clubs had been unable to score against RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando or Seattle keeper Michael Gspurning in the first game in Seattle.
There had been similar results over the three regular-season meetings, when Seattle was shut out three times and RSL scored only once – when Gspurning was out with injury.
Rimando had little chance on Martinez’s goal Thursday, a quickly struck drive inside the far post.
“In the offseason, I’m going to keep thinking how I could have saved that ball,” Rimando told Salt Lake media. “But you’ve got to give credit to (Martinez) and Seattle.”
Gspurning could relate.
“I can feel with (Rimando) because this is like the Open Cup was to me,” Gspurning said, thinking back to Seattle’s loss to Kansas City that went down to penalty kicks. “He made two huge games, and today he had two great saves. But soccer – and that’s good – is a team sport. I’m proud to be a member of the Sounders, and I’m very proud of the team that we made the next series.”
What lies directly ahead now is the Galaxy, the second-highest-scoring team in Major League Soccer, featuring offensive threats such as Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan and David Beckham. They advanced by coming from behind to eliminate Supporters’ Shield winner San Jose on the road.
Marc Burch issued an apology Friday for a gay slur caught on camera during the RSL game broadcast. His statement said, in part, “I apologize for my horrific choice of words last night during our match. ... Character matters, and I hope through hard work on and off the field to begin earning your respect and trust again.” Neither MLS nor the Sounders immediately announced any discipline against Burch, however there is league precedent for suspension. ... Sounders tickets for the Western Conference final are on sale. Details at SoundersFC.com. ... The Sounders will travel to Los Angeles today and train at the Home Depot Center.
Sounders FC at L.A. Galaxy, 6 p.m., ESPN, 97.3-FMDon Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt