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Sunday, March 31, 2013 - Page updated at 10:00 p.m.
Sounders' season stays in slump with 2-1 loss at Salt Lake
By Joshua Mayers
Seattle Times staff reporter
SANDY, Utah — The doors to Sounders FC's locker room were closed shut.
Seattle had just lost on the road to Real Salt Lake, falling to a franchise-worst 0-3-1 after four games, and it was time for a team meeting.
So what needed to be said after Saturday's 2-1 defeat?
"The truth," said midfielder Steve Zakuani. "It's not good enough at this point. ... We have to take a long, hard look in the mirror at ourselves. That first 45 minutes was the worst we've ever played as a team since I've been here."
The Sounders hadn't lost back-to-back MLS games since the first two of the 2011 season, ending a league-record stretch of 742 days.
This performance, in front of 20,359 at Rio Tinto Stadium, was especially dismal in the first half, which RSL dominated with a 16-6 advantage in shots. Seattle hadn't allowed more than 13 shots in any game this season; the hosts ended up with nearly twice that (25).
The result might have been worse, too, if not for Michael Gspurning, whose seven — many in spectacular fashion — set a new career high for the goalkeeper in a regular-season game.
"Just not pleased," said coach Sigi Schmid. "I'm not pleased with myself — I have to start with myself — because obviously we didn't play well at the beginning of the game. I have some feelings about some individual players, but I'll keep those to myself right now."
The game was supposed to be a showcase of the Sounders' full-strength, high-powered offense, as star forwards Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins started together for the first time.
Instead, team defense was at the forefront, and not in a good way.
One-sided action for RSL started early, when forward Robbie Findley poked a ball past Gspurning in the eighth minute for a 1-0 lead following a failed Sounders clearance in the penalty area.
The goal came after a flurry of other dangerous scoring chances for Salt Lake and ended a 408-minute scoreless streak against Seattle.
RSL (2-2-1) added a second in the 35th minute off a nicely placed header by midfielder Luis Gil on a corner kick.
It very nearly got to 3-0 just before halftime, but Gspurning came up with a huge save on a breakaway by forward Joao Plata in stoppage time.
"If it wasn't for Gspurning, we would've been 5-0 down after 15 minutes," Zakuani said.
Seattle, trailing 2-0 in the second half, was able to make things interesting in the 57th minute, when midfielder Brad Evans fired a shot off the inside of the post and in past goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
But comeback efforts stalled, particularly after the second-half substitutions of Martins (who had been playing with an injury) and Johnson (injured after getting stepped on).
"We ran out of steam and we ran out of ideas," Schmid said.
So what's next?
"No more talk," said defender Djimi Traore. "We need to react on the pitch and be men and do better than that."
• Sounders FC next hosts Mexico's Santos Laguna on Tuesday in the first leg of a CONCACAF Champions League semifinal. Kickoff at CenturyLink Field is 7 p.m. and tickets are available.
• Evans, in his return to the lineup from a calf strain, moved up to fourth in team history with his 14th league goal.
• Findley left the game in the 14th minute with a thigh-muscle strain and was replaced by Plata.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or email@example.com
First half — 1, Real Salt Lake, Findley 1, 8th minute. 2, Real Salt Lake, Gil 1 (Grabavoy, Velasquez), 35th. Second half — 3, Seattle, Evans 1 (Rosales, Yedlin), 57th. Goalies — Seattle, Michael Gspurning; Real Salt Lake, Nick Rimando. Shots — Seattle 8, Real Salt Lake 25. Shots on goal — Seattle 4, Real Salt Lake 10. Saves — Seattle 8, Real Salt Lake 3. Fouls — Seattle 14, Real Salt Lake 9. Corner kicks — Seattle 3, Real Salt Lake 7. Offsides — Seattle 5, Real Salt Lake 1. Yellow cards — Rose, Seattle, 87th. Referee — Mark Geiger. Assistant referees — Corey Parker. Brian Dunn. 4th official — Andrew Chapin. A — 20,359 (20,008).
Seattle 0 1 — 1 Real Salt Lake 2 0 — 2
Seattle — Michael Gspurning, Marc Burch, DeAndre Yedlin, Djimi Traore, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Mauro Rosales, Brad Evans (Andy Rose, 80th), Osvaldo Alonso, Steve Zakuani, Eddie Johnson (Sammy Ochoa, 78th), Obafemi Martins (David Estrada, 62nd).
Real Salt Lake — Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran, Chris Schuler, Nat Borchers, Kenny Mansally (Lovel Palmer, 81st), Sebastian Velasquez, Ned Grabavoy, Luis Gil (Javier Morales, 62nd), Kyle Beckerman, Robbie Findley (Joao Plata, 14th), Devon Sandoval.
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