It was a night of mixed results for the Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake, as the Sounders won this match 2-0, but RSL advanced to the Western Conference finals by winning by a 3-2 aggregate score. By the end of the game, Seattle coach Sigi Schmid was left holding his head in despair, indicating the belief the Sounders held to the very end in this game, despite the long odds.
The game was scoreless in the first half, although Jeff Parke's beautiful volley looked destined for the back of the net before Tony Beltran leaped into the air and cleared the shot with his head with RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando out of position. In the second half, it seemed like Seattle had little hope of getting back into the series, but a penalty on Beltran early in the half gave Osvaldo Alonso the chance to grab a crucial first goal for the Sounders, and the crowd pepped up immediately. Belief increased when the Sounders scored just a few minutes later, when Lamar Neagle scored on a beautiful pass from Fredy Montero. With a 2-0 lead and a half hour remaining, it seemed like the Sounders could manage the impossible. All of a sudden, RSL did not seem capable of stopping anything, and their lack of possession on the night meant they could not dictate the play.
In the end, the Sounders could not find an equalizer, and RSL advance. While Salt Lake played very well for the first 140 minutes of this series, they played pretty badly the last 40 minutes, and their seemingly invincible status has evaporated. They are a surely a dangerous team, but Seattle has provided a blueprint for the next team that will meet RSL. Still, if RSL can get their starting center backs healthy in time for the next round, they will undoubtedly be a challenge for either the Los Angeles Galaxy or New York Red Bulls. For Seattle, they can take small consolation from posting their first playoff victory in team history, even if they did not do enough to advance in the MLS Cup Playoffs. It is sad to see Kasey Keller leave the sport as a player tonight, but Seattle has to be optimistic moving into 2012.