<strong>SANDY–</strong> Real Salt Lake (2-2-1, 7 points, West 4th) got first-half goals from FW Robbie Findley and MF Luis Gil to down Western Conference rival Seattle Sounders FC (0-3-1, 1 point, West 9th), 2-1, in front of a sold-out crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night.
RSL completely dominated the match, outshooting Seattle 25-8, putting 10 shots on goal to Seattle’s 4 and keeping the Sounders on their back foot throughout the 90 minutes.
Real Salt Lake came out of the gates firing, nearly going ahead in the fifth minute. MF Ned Grabavoy slipped Findley into the left side of the box and the speedy striker cut in on his right foot before firing a shot that nearly deflected off of a Seattle player and in.
RSL had a double chance in the seventh. Claret-and-Cobalt DF Abdoulie Mansally hit a fantastic early cross from the left to FW Devon Sandoval in the right side of the area, putting him in for a 1-v-1 chance that Sounders GK Michael Gspurning blocked. MF Sebastian Velasquez pounced on the rebound at the top of the 18, cutting in on his left foot before ripping a shot that Gspurning deflected out of bounds.
The Claret-and-Cobalt broke through in the eighth minute. A long RSL throw from the right corner started a goalmouth scramble, with Findley eventually pouncing on a Sandoval block just two yards from goal. Gspurning stopped Findley’s first shot, but couldn’t do anything about the rebound, with Findley toe-poking the ball in from two yards out. The goal was Findley’s first of the year and his first with RSL since returning to the team this offseason after a two-year stint at English Championship club Nottingham Forest.
Unfortunately, Findley strained his left adductor during the goal play and had to be subbed off for FW Joao Plata in the 14th minute.
Gspurning stood on his head again in the 34th minute, miraculously turning away a RSL triple chance to keep it 1-0. Plata started the play, bringing the ball down on the left side and playing Sandoval through into the middle of the box. Sandoval’s shot was blocked by an onrushing Gspurning; Gil picked up the rebound, firing a shot off a Seattle defender; Velasquez pounced on the loose ball, firing a shot toward the top corner that Gspurning deflected over the bar.
RSL scored on the ensuing corner kick, with Gil finishing off a pretty set play to put the Claret-and-Cobalt up 2-0. Velasquez rolled the corner from the right side along the end line to Grabavoy, who chipped the ball toward the top of the box with his first touch, allowing Gil to smash a long-distance header inside the far post.
Plata nearly made it 3-0 RSL in first-half stoppage time, running onto a long ball over the top of Seattle’s back line and getting into the box before hitting a 1-v-1 shot that Gspurning saved.
Seattle had its first really good look immediately after Plata’s chance, with FW Eddie Johnson collecting a long ball at the top of the box before dribbling into the left side of the area and hitting a low shot that RSL GK Nick Rimando kept out with a diving save.
The Sounders had the first chance of the second half, forcing Rimando into another diving stop in the 54th minute. MF Steve Zakuani crossed from the left wing to MF Brad Evans, who snapped a header from the middle of the box to the far post that Rimando stopped.
Gspurning came up big again in the 55th minute, stopping another Plata 1-v-1 chance. Sandoval created the opportunity, springing Plata in on the left side of the box with a neat flick from the top of the area.
Evans pulled one back for Seattle in the 57th minute. MF Mauro Rosales laid DF DeAndre Yedlin’s cross off to Evans at the top of the box, with Evans ripping a deflected shot off the right post and into the back of the net.
RSL MF Javier Morales made his 2013 debut in the 62nd minute when he came on for Gil. Morales – who missed the Claret-and-Cobalt’s first four matches while recovering from preseason knee surgery – was given a standing ovation from the sold-out Rio Tinto Stadium crowd when he entered the game.
Seattle had its best look at an equalizer in the 72nd minute. Johnson and substitute FW David Estrada both got on the end of a Yedlin ball at the left post, but neither really connected on a shot, allowing Rimando to pick up the loose ball to end the dangerous opportunity.
RSL was denied in its shout for a penalty in the 85th minute. Morales thought he had earned a spot kick after Seattle DF Jhon Kennedy Hurtado bodied him off the ball in the box, but referee Mark Geiger waved it away.
Real Salt Lake plays again on Monday, when it will host Brigham Young University in an exhibition match at Rio Tinto Stadium. The Claret-and-Cobalt will return to MLS play next Saturday, April 6, taking on Subaru Rocky Mountain Cup rivals the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.