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Real Salt Lake: Goal for RSL, Seattle? Scoring goals

Published November 2, 2012 6:40 pm

Major League Soccer • Past two meetings in regular season were scoreless draws.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Seattle • Only half-kidding, Real Salt Lake defender Will Johnson says scoring one goal might be enough to beat Seattle in the Major League Soccer playoffs.

RSL opens the two-game aggregate series Friday night at CenturyLink Field, after three regular-season matches with the Sounders, during which goals were as scarce as November sunshine in the Pacific Northwest.

Real Salt Lake finished 1-0-2 against Seattle, but needed only one goal to come out on top in the season series.

Heading into the playoffs, RSL and the Sounders have played back-to-back draws and 220 scoreless minutes.

"It's hard to put your finger on why it's been so low-scoring," said Real Salt Lake midfielder Kyle Beckerman. "But their team is an organized bunch — a team that's tough to break down."

Beckerman compares this year's RSL-Seattle games to a "chess match and, so far, it's been pretty much a stalemate."

Oddly, Real Salt Lake and the Sounders collided in the opening round of the 2011 playoffs. The teams scored five goals in those two games.

RSL won the opener at Rio Tinto Stadium, 3-0, and Seattle rebounded with a 2-0 victory at CenturyLink. But Real Salt Lake advanced after an offensively explosive series — exactly the opposite of what RSL and the Sounders have produced this season.

"We're two fairly evenly matched teams, and we're two good defensive teams," said Real defender Chris Wingert. "You never know when things are going to change. But we feel, if we keep doing a good job defensively, we will get good results."

Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis disagrees with the notion that his team's matches against Seattle have been ultraconservative.

"I think all the games have been pretty attack-oriented — pretty exciting — with lots of chances," he said. "But, for whatever reason, the ball hasn't ended up in the back of the net very much."

At the same time, Kreis is prepared for a low-scoring playoff series with the Sounders because "typically that's what happens this time of year. ...

"Teams become very defense-oriented — very mindful of what they're doing without the ball. They concentrate on making life difficult for the opponent. That's just the way it is."

In five MLS and two CONCACAF Champions League games going back to Aug. 18, Real Salt Lake is undefeated in its last seven matches.

RSL has gone 4-0-3 during the successful stretch while outscoring its opponents, 9-2.

"What I really appreciate is the effort the boys have given — the intensity they've had in every match," Kreis said. "There hasn't been any matches [lately] when I've been discouraged with the energy level, and that's a good thing."

For RSL's core group of players, the playoffs could become a last stand.

Roster changes, beyond the typical season-to-season turnover experienced by all professional teams, are possible.

Beckerman, for one, doesn't understand why future personnel moves are being considered for a group that finished the regular season with 17 wins and 57 points. Both are franchise records.

"I don't agree with it," Beckerman said. "I think we have a really good team here and we are steadily building. To talk about disbanding the team, that's nonsense to me."

Beckerman promised the roster issue is not an issue among the players.

"We're going to go out, fight for ourselves and fight for the fans and see if we can make a run at it," he said.

Said Johnson: "We're looking forward to the opportunity we have in front of us."

luhm@sltrib.com

Real Salt Lake at Seattle

P At CenturyLink Field

Kickoff • 8 p.m.

TV • NBCSN

Radio • 700 AM, 1600 AM, 102.3 FM

Records • RSL, 17-11-6; Seattle 15-8-11

Season series • RSL, 1-0-2

Last meeting • RSL 0, Seattle 0 (Oct. 17)

About RSL • It went 6-1-4 in the last 11 games. ... RSL outscored the opposition 12-3 in those games. ... F Alvaro Saborio leads theteam in shots on goal (40) and goals scored (17). ... D Chris Schuler (quad) and D Jamison Olave (hamstring) are questionable.

About the Sounders • They are 2-2-1 in their last five matches. ... F Eddie Johnson, who set a franchise record with 14 goals this season, is questionable (hamstring). ... They went 12-4-5 when GK Michael Gspurning played and 3-4-6 when he was injured.