Sandy • For Real Salt Lake and Seattle FC, the Major League Soccer playoffs boil down to 90 minutes Thursday night.
Because RSL and the Sounders battled to a 0-0 draw in the opener their aggregate series, the winner of Game 2 at Rio Tinto Stadium will advance to the Western Conference finals.
After going 11-4-2 at home during the regular season, Real Salt Lake appears to have an advantage.
Nobody, however, is suggesting that beating the Sounders will be easy.
Said goalkeeper Nick Rimando, “Going into [Game 1], our confidence was there. And ... getting a good result in front of their fans definitely got us more confident. But we can’t look past them. They are a good team.”
Coach Jason Kreis agrees.
“Of course we feel good about where we are,” he said. “We like being at home in this series, tied. But that doesn’t mean anything, really. We still have to put the effort and work into the game to win it. There’s a whole lot left to be done.”
The starting time for Game 2 of the RSL-Seattle series has been moved to 8 p.m. to accommodate national TV. The NBC Sports Network will televise the second leg of the Western Conference semifinal series. Gates at Rio Tinto Stadium open at 6:30 p.m.
Total defensive effort
RSL has not allowed a goal in 433 minutes, going back to the 17th minute of a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy on Oct. 6.
Real Salt Lake has not allowed more than one goal in 12 straight games — since FC Dallas scored a 2-1 victory on July 18.
“It’s just a total team commitment and a total rededication to who exactly we are,” Kreis said. “When we are committed and dedicated like that, we typically do very well on the defensive side.”
Rimando believes the focused effort of high-scoring forwards Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola — and others known mostly for contributing to the RSL attack — has been a key to the defensive performance.
“When our forwards are playing defense,” Rimando said, “our whole team plays well.”
Both teams encouraged
Seattle owned a distinct territorial advantage in Game 1. Both teams attempted 11 shots, but the Sounders finished with more open-play crosses (30-14) and took more corner kicks (8-3) than Real Salt Lake.
Rimando was spectacular in goal, especially in the first half, when he made four of his five saves.
“They had some chances,” RSL defender Nat Borchers said. “I thought we were fortunate to get out with a nil-nil result. But, obviously, we got some great goalkeeping by Nicky and other guys made some pretty good defensive plays.”
Despite failing to take advantage of its home field — in front of 34,941 fans — Seattle was encouraged by its play.
“Soccer is like this,” midfielder Mauro Rosales said. “A keeper has a night like [that] sometimes. It’s just impossible to score. You can shoot from everywhere and not score. The good thing is we generated many chances. ... Our goals are going to come [if] we keep the same mentality.”
Seattle at RSL
P Thursday, 8 p.m.
TV • NBCSN