Seattle • Real Salt Lake and Seattle fought to a 0-0 draw Friday night in their Major League Soccer playoff game at CenturyLink Field.
Blame Nick Rimando.
In a spectacular effort, Rimando prevented RSL from falling behind in the opener of a two-game aggregate series in front of 34,941 fans on a cool, rainy night in Seattle.
“I think,” said coach Jason Kreis, “it will have to go down as one of the single best individual performances by any player that has ever worn an RSL jersey.”
Rimando finished with five acrobatic saves despite playing the final 23 minutes of regulation and eight minutes of stoppage time with a lacerated and badly swollen eye.
He suffered a three-stitch gash after a nasty collision with the Sounders’ Christian Tiffert but still put RSL in position to advance to the Western Conference finals with a win Thursday night at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“I took a hit but I feel OK — focused,” Rimando said. “The eyesight is fine. Just ready to get back home.”
Asked about the play when he was injured, Rimando said, “I committed for a ball and the next thing I know I was on the ground. I heard Tiffert followed through — not intentionally — but followed through with his forearm and got me.”
According to Rimando, the most important aspect of the game was Real Salt Lake earning the draw, which sends it back to Utah with a chance to advance.
“It was a good result for us here — a result we’re OK going home with,” Rimando said.
In the fifth minute, Real Salt Lake got its first good look at the goal when Javier Morales found himself open at the top of the penalty area.
The RSL forward turned and fired, but the shot was blocked by the defense without getting to Seattle keeper Michael Gspurning.
The Sounders controlled the play and enjoyed a distinct territorial advantage for the next 15 minutes — until Ned Grabavoy nearly had a chance to score.
He got behind the defense but, in a race to the ball with Gspurning, Grabavoy lost by a half-step and the game remained scoreless.
In the 25th minute, the Sounders’ Brad Evans had the game’s best opportunity to that point when found himself one-on-one from the right angle with Rimando.
The RSL keeper stood his ground, however, and knocked away Evans’ shot.
Amazingly, the stop was only the beginning for Rimando. In the 33rd minute, he made two spectacular saves on consecutive attacks by the Sounders.
First, Rimando denied Sammy Ochoa, who put a header on target from 12 yards away.
Off the ensuing corner kick, Seattle’s Jhon Kennedy Hurtado directed another header toward Rimando, who made an acrobatic save.
In the first five minutes of the second half, Seattle almost scored again when Ochoa fired over the crossbar from point-blank range and Rimando followed with another diving stop. This time, he robbed Tiffert on another header.
“I think I start by praising my team for the unbelievable effort they put forth,” Kreis said. “They showed a real desire to be committed and stay together. It’s fantastic. ... I’m so proud of my team. They defined the word ‘together’ for me tonight.”
R Real Salt Lake earns a scoreless tie on the road against Seattle.
• RSL can win the aggregate series with a win in Game 2 on Thursday at Rio Tinto Stadium.
• Goalkeeper Nick Rimando makes five saves despite an injury to spark Real Salt Lake’s effort.