For the final 45 minutes of Wednesday night’s Seattle-Real Salt Lake match at CenturyLink Field, the question was whether the Sounders could prevail despite playing a man down. Forced into that situation in the 30th minute when Zach Scott received the second of two yellow cards, an automatic ejection, the Sounders didn’t win, but they forced a remarkable 0-0 draw in one of the club’s best defensive efforts of the season.
By drawing, the Sounders (14-7-10) earned one point for 53, three behind RSL (17-11-5) with two regular-season MLS matches remaining.
The match shifted in the 30th minute when Scott was forced off the field for taking down Javier Morales. The Sounders packed their defense in the hope of preventing a goal.
They succeeded to the extent that RSL had few scoring chances until the final minute when Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning made two spectacular saves.
“I think it was a great team effort,” said Gspurning. “It was almost 60 minutes with us playing with 10 men. We should go a long way this year.
“We did a great job of organizing because of injuries. As a team we did great defensive work. We know what we have to do and we’ll keep going.”
Real Salt Lake, curiously, never pressed the Sounders despite having a man advantage, preferring instead to take the extra pass to set up better shots. But the extra passes enabled the Sounders to adjust defensively.
Coach Sigi Schmid, whose club could have tied RSL for second place in the Western Conference with a victory, was irate at the circumstances that led to Scott’s ejection, blaming referee Ricardo Salazar.
‘We have our 12th man in the fans and they (Real Salt Lake) have their 12th man in Ricardo Salazar,” said Schmid. “It’s just a nightmare for us when he referees.”
In addition to loss of Scott, Seattle played without leading scorer Eddie Johnson and Adam Johansson, both of whom just arrived back in Seattle after putting in national team duty. The Sounders were also missing defenders Leo Gonzalez and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado because of injuries.
The Sounders come back Saturday at 6 p.m. with a match against FC Dallas, also at CenturyLink Field.
NOTES: The match attracted Seattle’s 66th consecutive sellout, 38,356 . . . By not allowing a goal, the Sounders extended their streak of consecutive scoreless minutes to 330 . . . Sounders 10-4-2 at home . . . Sounders went 0-1-2 against Real Salt Lake during the regular season, but may see the Utahns again in the playoffs.