Real Salt Lake scored twice in a four-minute span of the second half, including an own goal by Osvaldo Alonso, and claimed the top spot in MLS’s Western Conference Saturday with a 2-1 victory over the Sounders at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, UT. Coming off a 6-0 pasting of the Chicago Fire in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal, Seattle tumbled out of first place for the second time since the beginning of May, although it has two games in hand.
Amid five matches in 14 days, the Sounders fell to 13-7-2 (41 points) while Real Salt Lake improved to 11-4-9 (42), best in MLS. The Utahns, in front of 20,483, also avenged a 4-0 pummeling administered by the Sounders May 31 at CenturyLink Field.
Playing without Obafemi Martins and Marco Pappa, the Sounders couldn’t generate any offense of consequence until the 72nd minute when Chad Barrett knocked in a rebound off the right post to slice the lead to 2-1. Clint Dempsey, who barely saw the ball in the first half, just missed wide in the 77nd minute and Barrett was also wide right in stoppage time.
Joao Plata, all of 5-foot-2, tallied his 11th goal of the season, and third in three matches, on a header following Luke Mulholland’s free kick in the 53rd minute, marking the first time this year that Seattle had ceded a goal on a free kick. Before the Sounders could regain their composure, Mulholland and Alonso in the 57th minute jousted for the ball inside the box, both stabbing for it as it skittered past Seattle goalie Stefan Frei.
Officials ruled that Alonso’s foot touched it last (Mulholland disagreed), giving Real Salt Lake a 2-0 lead.
When Barrett tallied in the 72nd minute, off a ball that Andy Rose caromed off the post, he denied RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando an opportunity to extend his MSL record to 114 career shutouts.
The Sounders have scored 21 of their 38 goals this season in the final 30 minutes, but they needed another Saturday to come away with a point.
Real Salt Lake controlled possession much of the match, winding up with a percentage edge of 57.9 to 42.1. While the Sounders got off 12 shots to Real Salt Lake’s nine, only two were on goal.
The Sounders played without Martins, who served a red-card suspension after picking up two yellows in a 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo last Sunday, and Pappa, nursing a slight hamstring strain . . . Brad Evans left the match at halftime after cramping up in the first . . . The Sounders drew a pair of yellow cards, by Zach Scott in the 15th minute and defender DeAndre Yedlin in the 60th.
The Sounders return to CenturyField at 7 p.m. Wednesday for a 7 p.m. against San Jose. The following Sunday, they travel to Portland for a Cascadia Cup renewal against the Timbers.