Back in April, there was no doubt who the best team in MLS was. It was Real Salt Lake. They were so close to a CONCACAF Champions League title and in league play were just running through teams. Then Javier Morales went down hurt. Other players followed and the rest of the season was somewhat of a mess as they just tried to get healthy. On Saturday, they were healthy and together for the first time since early May. Want to know the result? A hearty 3-0 smacking of the Seattle Sounders in the first leg of their conference semifinal tie.
While RSL was happy to get everyone back, the Sounders were battling an injury of their own and a big one at that. Mauro Rosales, the Sounders' MVP candidate was out with a knee injury and they sure missed him. Seattle was completely devoid of creativity in the final third and when the final whistle blew, they were still in search of their first shot on goal. Simply put, Salt Lake thumped them.
The chances came early and often for Salt Lake, but Kasey Keller kept them away with some tremendous saves. Eventually, Chris Wingert got free down the left though and hit it across for Alvaro Saborio to tap in, leaving Keller no chance to bail out his team. All he could do was appeal for offside, as the entire Sounders team did, but the referee gave the goal as replays showed that it was too close to definitively call.
That goal gave RSL a lead at halftime, but it didn't even take 10 minutes for them to double that lead in the second half and it was Saborio again. While the first goal was a simple tap in, this was a beauty by Saborio. Morales crossed low and hard towards the near post, whee Saborio got to the ball and flicked a gorgeous back heel past Keller to make it 2-0 Salt Lake.
While all this was going on, Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers were going down injured for Salt Lake. By the time that Ned Grabavoy popped in to make it 3-0 in the 88th minute, both of the Salt Lake center backs had gone down with injuries. It leaves their status for the second leg in doubt, but it might not matter too much. Salt Lake has a 3-0 lead going into that second leg and Seattle has a long ways back to avoid first round elimination for the third straight season.
For more on this game and playoff series, check out Seattle Sounders blog Sounder At Heart and Real Salt Lake blog RSL Soapbox. We have complete coverage of this match in our RSL vs. Seattle Sounders StoryStream. For more on the entire world of soccer and the rest of the MLS Playoffs, check out SB Nation Soccer.