Sounders FC's win streak comes to end with 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake
Fabian Espindola scored in the 51st minute for Real Salt Lake, which hasn't lost in its last three regular-season games in Seattle.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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A quality opponent. A little misfortune. Fatigue.
That was the combination that had Sounders FC's phenomenal run of success coming to a disappointing end at the hands of a familiar foe.
Real Salt Lake, which eliminated Seattle in last year's MLS playoffs, got a second-half goal from forward Fabian Espindola and held on to earn a 1-0 win Saturday in front of 39,312 at CenturyLink Field.
In what was a battle for first place in the Western Conference, the Sounders (7-2-1) had their winning streak end at five and their unbeaten streak at six.
Salt Lake (8-3-2) hasn't lost in its past three regular-season games in Seattle.
"They're an experienced team in this league and they're one of the better teams, and so are we," said Sounders coach Sigi Schmid. "When top teams meet, there's sometimes not a lot that separates the two."
Schmid thought a tie would've been fair, but RSL had other ideas. Espindola put the visitors ahead for good in the 51st minute, when he split two defenders to collect a pass from midfielder Luis Gil and fired a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Bryan Meredith.
Espindola's fourth goal of the season ended Seattle's shutout streak at 321 minutes. It was the first goal allowed this season by Meredith, who recorded the third-longest shutout streak to start an MLS career at 275 minutes.
The Sounders had controlled more of the game up until that point, especially in the first half, but RSL got the goal.
"They waited 90 minutes, they got one chance and they put it into the net," said forward Fredy Montero. "That was the difference in the game."
The Sounders pressed hard for an equalizer, starting with a 71st-minute header by Montero that went wide. Midfielder Alvaro Fernandez made a nice run down the right side two minutes later, but couldn't connect for a pass in front of the goal.
Second-half substitute Cordell Cato also created some late chances for the home team. He had a dangerous cross into the penalty box in the 87th minute, but it was cleared on a diving punch by goalkeeper Nick Rimando. A minute later, Cato had an open look in front of the goal, but couldn't get a shot off.
Up until the final seconds, the Sounders continued to push desperately toward the RSL goal, but nothing could get past Rimando, who earned his fourth shutout.
Ultimately, Seattle would post eight shots (none on target), six corner kicks and 30 crosses.
It was a frustrating end to what had been an exceptional run of five games in 15 days. Seattle was hoping to become the third team in MLS history to win five games in that short span.
"Overall, I can't fault our guys for what they've done over the last five games," said Schmid.
Signs of fatigue showed in the second half, but the Sounders didn't use that as an excuse. Many gave credit to a physical, defensive-minded RSL team, which has closed out wins in all six games where it has scored the first goal.
"It's not the end of the world," said forward Eddie Johnson. "The guys have been on a good run of form. On a better night we get something out of this game — maybe a point, maybe three points — but it just wasn't our night."
• Sounders FC's next game is May 19 at Vancouver. It's the first match in the 2012 Cascadia Cup, a competition among the three Pacific Northwest rivals. Six of Seattle's next eight games are on the road.
• The Sounders fielded their 10th different lineup in as many games Saturday. Alonso was able to play despite suffering an adductor strain last week, but midfielder Brad Evans (calf) and defender Patrick Ianni (back) were out. Andy Rose, a rookie out of UCLA, earned his third straight start in midfield, and Fernandez came on as a 59th-minute sub for his first appearance since missing five games with a quad strain.
• Defender Zach Scott was serving a one-game suspension for a dangerous tackle Wednesday against FC Dallas.
• Salt Lake defender Chris Wingert was forced to leave the game in the 20th minute with a hamstring strain; he was replaced by Chris Schuler. Salt Lake star midfielder Javier Morales, who has a team-leading three assists, didn't make the trip due to a quad injury.
• Saturday's attendance was the largest of the season and third-largest for an MLS game in club history.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @joshuamayers.
|Real Salt Lake||0 1 — 1|
|Seattle||0 0 — 0|
Real Salt Lake — Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran, Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert (Chris Schuler, 20th), Luis Gil (Jonny Steele, 75th), Ned Grabavoy, Kyle Beckerman, Will Johnson, Alvaro Saborio (Yordany Alvarez, 81st), Fabian Espindola.
Seattle — Brian Meredith, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Jeff Parke, Marc Burch, Adam Johansson (Alex Caskey, 82nd), Andy Rose, Osvaldo Alonso, Mauro Rosales (Cordell Cato, 75th), David Estrada (Alvaro Fernandez, 58th), Eddie Johnson, Fredy Montero.
|Not best in West today|
|Seattle failed to move into first place in the Western Conference.|
|Real Salt Lake||8-3-2||26|