Sounders FC and Real Salt Lake launched a combined 22 shots Friday night in Seattle, and nine of those were on target.
However, none got past Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning, who was solid, or RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who was spectacular.
“I think (Rimando’s play) will have to go down as one of the single best individual performances by any player that’s ever worn an RSL jersey,” Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis said.
The result marked the third scoreless draw in four meetings between the two clubs this season. The lone exception was a 1-0 RSL victory in May.
But no matter how long it might take these teams to coax a ball into the back of the net, this two-game, aggregate-score playoff series must resolve Thursday night in Utah. The winner will go on to the MLS Western Conference finals. The loser goes home with plenty of time to think about the near-misses that played out Thursday before a crowd of 34,941 at CenturyLink Field.
“We could sit here and we could lament about it and we could cry about it,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “But at the end of the day we’ve got to get ready for a game on Thursday, and we have to build on what was good. If we play the same way in Salt Lake, I think we come away with the result.”
The 90 minutes that played out Friday weren’t anything like what most people expect when they think of a scoreless soccer match. This one was free-flowing, with plenty of chances in both directions.
“I think we did a correct game today. We had a lot of chances, but their keeper had an amazing night, and we have to keep going,” Seattle midfielder Mauro Rosales said. “We have to keep going until the goals come.”
The Sounders had especially good chances, but they amounted to nothing due to a few misses and five mostly dazzling saves by Rimando.
“These are the playoffs,” Rimando said. “Big players step up in big games, and I think everybody stepped up tonight. It wasn’t just me. I did my part for sure, but so did everybody else. I’m not getting that zero without those guys.”
Rimando gave his first hint this night might be something special in the 25th minute, when he came off his line to knock away a shot just off the foot of Brad Evans. And he was just as effective in stoppage time when he anticipated a cross by Rosales and dived to cut it off before it reached Fredy Montero just yards from the goal.
Perhaps the highlight save in a night that was full of them came in the 33rd minute, when Rimando knocked a well-struck header by Sammy Ochoa just over the crossbar.
“As soon as it went off of my head I was sure that was going in,” Ochoa said. “But Nick made a good save. We’ve just got to go out there in Salt Lake and take care of business.”
Ochoa started in place of Eddie Johnson, the Sounders’ leading goal-scorer, who missed the game with a groin injury.
Schmid indicated that he expects Johnson to be available for the deciding game next week.
“Eddie’s obviously scored goals this year, and having him back on Thursday is an important element to our team,” Schmid said. “When you take out a goal-scorer, it makes a difference. He’ll be ready.”
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org/soccer