SANDY, UTAH – Seattle Sounders FC seemed seconds away from a road win over the defending MLS Cup champions Saturday night.
But in the fourth and final minute of stoppage time, Real Salt Lake reserve Alvaro Saborio headed a corner kick into the net. When the referee’s whistle blew a few seconds later, it sent the Sounders off the pitch at Rio Tinto Stadium with a 2-2 draw – one of the most frustrating of their brief history.
The game was played before a near-sellout crowd of 19,970 on an evening when pregame tributes were paid to RSL’s 2009 MLS Cup championship.
However, Seattle seemed poised to spoil the party most of the way.
The Sounders took the lead in the 11th minute when Fredy Montero made a nice turn near the touchline and crossed to Steve Zakuani, who was running free past the RSL defense.
With only Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando in front of him, Zakuani fired. Rimando sprawled and managed to get a foot on the ball, but it continued into the net.
For the next 20 minutes, RSL came at the Sounders in waves. However, the Sounders slipped back into a defensive posture and weathered the storm.
That storm came to an end in the 36th minute when Salt Lake star Javier Morales limped off the field with a right groin injury.
RSL lost momentum when it lost its star, but only briefly.
In the 53rd minute, Robbie Russell sent a long cross from the sideline to the head of midfielder Will Johnson, who finished past Seattle goalkeeper Kasey Keller.
Keller made three saves, but he had no chance on this one – or the final one.
Seattle reclaimed the lead in the 72nd minute when Freddie Ljungberg sent a free kick in front of the Salt Lake goal. Several players converged, and the ball went into the net. The Sounders’ Tyrone Marshall was the closest, but it was eventually ruled an own goal by RSL defender Nat Borchers.
That lead stood up past the 90th minute and through three of the four minutes of stoppage time. But then, RSL substitute midfielder Nelson Gonzalez launched RSL’s 12th corner kick of the night and Saborio made it pay off.
The result left both teams at 1-1-1 and with four points on the season.
Real Salt Lake extended its home unbeaten streak to 14 games and avoided losing a home opener for the first time in its six seasons.
The Sounders return to Qwest Field next weekend for a noon Saturday meeting with Kansas City.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Additional information on the game is available at blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer.