The STATE of Soccer in WASHINGTON
SEATTLE – A second-half surge fueled by goals from Osvaldo Alonso and Lamar Neagle provided Seattle Sounders FC with a 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake yet it wasn’t enough to overcome a deficit from the first leg of their MLS Western Conference Semifinal series. Real Salt Lake won, 3-2, on aggregate and advances to face either the L.A. Galaxy or New York Red Bulls on Sunday.
Seattle Sounders Press Release
Seattle’s win, before 36,021 on the Xbox Pitch at CenturyLink Field, was its first in the MLS Cup Playoffs after also qualifying in 2009 and 2010. It was the eighth-largest crowd in MLS postseason history.
Kasey Keller was required to make only one save in posting a shutout in his final professional match. Keller, 41, retires following 20 professional seasons in Europe and, for the past three years, with Sounders FC.
Seattle needed to outscore RSL by four goals to win the series after falling, 3-0, in Utah last Saturday.
PHOTOS: See more match shots from Joseph Armand at Facebook.com/goalWA
Pressuring the visitors’ goal from the outset Sounders FC were denied until the 56th minute when they earned at penalty kick.
RSL defender Tony Beltran was whistled for a foul and issued a yellow card after pulling down Mike Fucito from behind inside the box. Alonso’s ensuing penalty kick went low and down the middle of the net, past keeper Nick Rimando.
Seattle made it 2-0 just five minutes later when Fredy Montero found Lamar Neagle going hard up the left side. Neagle caught Rimando leaning the wrong way and finished with a left-footed strike inside the right post from 15-yards in the 61st minute. Alonso was also credited with an assist.
The best opportunity for Sounders FC to tie the aggregate score came from Neagle in the 69th minute. He drove a curling shot from the top of the box that Rimando saved near the upper right corner.
The Rave Green finished with 26 shots-tying their regular season record set earlier in the season versus Houston. Nine of the attempts were on goal, led by Neagle’s three.Real Salt Lake managed only four shots, one on goal.
Despite a scoreless first half, Seattle dominated. They out-shot RSL 15-1 (including 4-0 on goal), and set a franchise record for corner kicks in a half with 10.
Injuries plagued Sounders FC early on as No. 2 scorer Alvaro Fernandez left the game in the 14th minute with a left hamstring injury and Brad Evans was taken off in the 21st after injuring his right ankle. They were replaced by Neagle and Roger Levesque, respectively. Mauro Rosales, who led the team with 13 assists this season, missed the entire series with an MCL sprain.
Seattle almost got on the board in the seventh minute when Erik Friberg’s free kick was headed by Fernandez to Montero behind the defense, but Montero’s open shot went wide right.
A long, relentless attack at the end of the first half by Seattle started in the 35th minute and created multiple opportunities, the best of which came in the 39th when, with Rimando out of position, Jeff Parke volleyed toward an open net from 18-yards only to have Beltran clear the shot with a leaping header over the crossbar.
Keller kept Seattle in aggregate contention late. In the 79th minute, Fabian Espindola got behind the defense and had Keller one-on-one, but Keller made a point-blank save.
With a total of 27 wins in the regular season, playoffs, Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League, Sounders FC eclipsed the standard of 26 outright (non-tiebreaker) wins by the Chicago Fire in 2000.
POSTGAME QUOTES: Sounders FC vs. Real Salt Lake, 11/2/11
Sigi Schmid – Sounders FC Head Coach
(Opening comments…) “Obviously it was disappointing that we didn’t get the third goal tonight to send it in to overtime. I was proud of the way we played. I thought our effort looked good. I thought our desire was good. I thought our soccer was good. We had four or five really good looks in the first half and we couldn’t get one in. [Fredy] Montero had that chance early after he had got abused pretty good on a couple of tackles and maybe if he hadn’t been feeling the effects of that injury he sticks that away. They save a couple off the line in the first half, as well, so if we could have snuck one in…It shows the importance of that late goal for them in Salt Lake. But tonight I can’t fault our team for our effort, our desire. I think we showed our fans our character tonight. I know last year at the end of the playoffs I said about some people that the occasion was too big for them. I think tonight we finally figured out how to play in the playoffs and we got our first playoff win, but we figured it out one game too late. If we would have played with 60 percent of this intensity in Salt Lake I think we would have been good, but hopefully it will make us a better team. It was still a great season for us. We accomplished a lot of things – we got more points, we won another U.S. Open Cup, we moved on to the next round of the CCL. All those things are showing our continued growth as a team, but obviously we’re disappointed with the result tonight.”
(On what the attitude was at halftime…) “Our attitude was good. It was a little bit frustrating, but it was good. We had talked about and we had prepared the team to move into a 3-5-2 formation if we weren’t having success because obviously we normally play a 4-4-2 and we didn’t have success in Salt Lake. I didn’t feel there was a need to change because we were dominating the game and creating chances, so we continued to push out of that formation. We told them they had been a little bit fortunate with the balls they saved off the line and if you keep doing what you’re doing the goals will come, and we ended up getting two goals. The injuries in the first half hurt us because what ends up happening then is when you get with 20 minutes to go in the game, you could use some fresh legs and we couldn’t bring in any fresh legs anymore. Like Erik Friberg was pretty dead tired. Generally [Brad] Evans is a little fitter than him, so we would have been able to slide that around. There are certain things that we could have done without those injuries.”
(On Tony Beltran’s header save in the first half…) “It was huge because if we get a goal in the first half then…you saw what happened when we got the first goal and they started to teeter a little bit and if we would have got that goal in the first half this place would have been even louder and just given us more time to get the third one.”
(On Kasey Keller’s save in the second half…) “Yeah, it kept us in the game because at that point we’ve obviously got to fill bodies forward and so they got in. The linesman I thought missed two or three offside calls prior to that, so that was a little bit frustrating. He comes up big on that save, but we thought it should have been offside anyway.”
(On dominating the midfield game today…) “It was just our aggression level. I thought in the last game we were very passive and today we were more aggressive. We talked to our center backs and said it’s going to be man against man. You’ve got to win your duels. You’ve got to be better than [Alvaro] Saborio. You’ve got to be better than [Fabian] Espindola and what-not. Look for help. So we zoned less. We got on to people. We got closer and as a result of that we were able to regain the ball much quicker and as we got the ball back much quicker we also connected our first two or three passes most times and that allowed us to get a hold of the game.”
(On what Kasey Keller has meant to the franchise…) “Obviously, Kasey Keller has meant a great deal to this franchise and there’s nothing I would have rather done or this team would have rather done than to take him out with an MLS Cup. We were able to give him three U.S. Open Cup’s and give him three years in the playoffs, so that’s the extent of our gift to him. But he’s still a goalkeeper who’s one of the best goalkeepers, if not the best goalkeeper in our league. He’s played at a high level. It’s great to see somebody be able to finish their career at home in front of friends and family. It’s been a great situation. We’re going to miss him, for sure, but I’m sure he’ll be around. Kasey will still be talking to you guys, I’m sure.”
(On how they will go about the offseason…) “We’ll be around. We’ll do things until Thanksgiving. We’ve got things to do, meetings to do and things like that and get offseason programs organized. We have an early start to our program next year because we’re in the Champions League, so we’ve got to be prepared for that. We’ve got some guys…[Brad] Evans’ ankle is about four times the size of this microphone right now on a non-foul, so there’s some guys that got beat up tonight.”
(On the play of Lamar Neagle…) “I think he would have had the same impact if we would have brought him on with 20 minutes to go, or 25 minutes to go – which was the plan. He’s another one. He’s a young player in terms of experience and he’s learning every time he gets out there. Yeah, I do think in Salt Lake it was probably too big a game for him even in the first half. He really didn’t come into the game until the second half. We talked about it and I think he grew up today a little bit in terms of being a little stronger, a little tougher. Then obviously he scored a good goal and was involved in a lot of our offensive actions and almost beat [Nick] Rimando on another one that he tried to bend to the far post like the one he scored in Salt Lake during the regular season. He continues to grow and improve.”
(On what the taste in their mouth is right now after tonight’s result…) “I don’t know if it’s in our mouths. It’s definitely a very empty, hallow feeling in our stomachs at this stage. As I told the team, I’m happy we got our first playoff win. We won a playoff game so we got our first playoff win tonight. We had to overcome a lot of obstacles tonight but we still have an empty feeling from the standpoint that we know we should have done better in Salt Lake. We know we should be going on to the next round if we had done better and so that’s disappointing. But we’re also proud of the fact that we showed our character and we showed our true colors today.”
(On how they add Steve Zakuani, O’Brian White and others back into the mix…) “I’ve got no problem adding those guys. I’ve got no problem adding Mauro Rosales as well. I think the more quality players you have the better it is and you just have more options. Eventually they compete against each other and the strong survive and become better and your team becomes better overall.”
Kasey Keller – Sounders FC Goalkeeper
(On the loss…) “It’s over. It’s been a helluva three years. Obviously an honor to be able to come home and play for something as cool as the Sounders have become and were from the first minute. You couldn’t have asked for a better end of my career. Yeah, of course, holding up a MLS Cup in a couple weeks would have been tremendous, but you can’t fault anybody. We had one of those bad days a couple days ago and came back here and restored a ton of pride. We just came up a tiny bit short.”
(On the third goal RSL scored on Saturday night…) “Two-nil is such a tenuous scoreline in soccer. It gives you that little bit false sense of security and knowing that it’s so obtainable can bite you in the ass. So that’s why that third one was a monster, and it ended up being just that. Huge credit to the guys. We came in here and gave everything we had. We sure as hell made it entertaining for everyone to watch, both here and on TV. We came up a little bit short, but it was an honor. The guys did tremendous and I’m proud of each one of them.”
(On if he ever thought they were out of it…) “No, not at all. We scored plenty of goals this year in games. I never thought at any time, as long as I knew we kept it tight, that we’d give ourselves a chance down to the end. You have to give them some credit-that clearance off the line from Jeff Parke off the corner was insane…Fredy [Montero] had a great chance and it just skidded away from him right at the very beginning, and that could have been very interesting. But nobody got their head down. We kept battling and battling and battling, got the penalty, then Lamar [Neagle] pops up, great pass from Fredy and knocks it in. And then you think, ‘All right, game on.’ We battled, they really threw their body on the line, and we just came up a little bit short.”
Lamar Neagle – Sounders FC Midfielder
(On his goal…) “Fredy just played a good ball. They really kind of converged on him and I was wide open…We can score goals and we put enough pressure on them the whole game, especially because it was around the 70th minute when I scored, so we knew we had a lot of time and we definitely thought we could put another one away.”
(On if the goal boosted his confidence…) “Yeah. You can say it’s always difficult to get into the game when you’re a sub. I think it was 13 minutes in I went in so not quite the best warm up I could get before going in, but I actually did the same thing against Salt Lake my first goal. It’s just something that happens. I was definitely more into the flow of the game in the second half, so I was able to go out and do a lot better in the second half.”
(On out-shooting RSL 26-4 and not getting the third goal…) “That’s the way it goes sometimes. Like I said, we know we can score goals, so we were definitely going to go at them. With us going at them that hard they were backing off, so we felt we that we could get three but it just didn’t fall that way.”
(On if they felt they had something to prove…) “Definitely. Going to Salt Lake and losing like that it’s not something we wanted and planned, so we definitely had something to prove to ourselves. And for our fans we wanted to show them that we were a different team and I think we a good job of that. We put a good effort out. We were unlucky that we didn’t get a third to fall. They were saving balls off the line. You can’t knock them. They did a good job.”
Fredy Montero – Sounders FC Forward
(On the injuries early on…) “That always is going to change the game but the important thing for us was our effort. We did a great job tonight and we are so proud because we played a very hard game. They were a really tough team but we didn’t care. We just wanted to score three goals…but the third doesn’t come.”
(On if the positives this season outweigh the negatives…) “Yeah. I think when that kind of thing happens, when your team is losing and you never give up. It’s going to be good for us for the next season. We are more mature. We know how to play playoffs right now and we are really sad because it was too late, but we need to focus for the next season.”
(On the end of Kasey Keller’s career…) “It means a lot. I think we lose a great part of the team. He’s our captain. He’s a very good friend but this is soccer. He has to leave but we have the rest of the team looking forward to playing and giving 100% of everything we have.”
Mike Fucito – Sounders FC Forward
(On dominating the game…) “I don’t think we could have dominated any more. Our shot that gets cleared off the line, I just think sometimes you need a little luck…I think the fact we scored early in the second half and still had 25 minutes, we still put them under tons and tons of pressure…We were able to do that from minute zero through minute 95.”
Jason Kreis – Real Salt Lake Head Coach
(On if he expected the game to go as it did…) “Yeah, I knew that at some point it was going to be like them wave after wave, serving balls into our box and seeing how we dealt with them. I expected – I really did expect us to be better with the ball than we were tonight. I felt like we were really hurried. We got in a lot of good spots early in the game to win the ball and then just gave it right back. So we never were able to gain any ground or get out of our half or keep things in their end for long stretches and it was a choppy game, which doesn’t help us to gain any kind of rhythm. It felt like any time a Seattle player fell in the first half, there was a whistle right behind it and a free kick against us. That made things difficult and they just kept serving it into our box and the entire night was a difficult night. Credit to Seattle and credit to their crowd for creating that atmosphere and credit to the team for putting us under that kind of pressure and I think that what you saw was that this is a very, very good team that went out in the first round of the playoffs which is, I think, disappointing.”
(On missing two of his starting center-backs…) “Yeah, obviously our choices were one of three: we could pull [Robbie] Russell into the middle, we could pull [Chris] Wingert into the middle, or we could play Rauwshan McKenzie. And the choice was, obviously, when you get to the playoffs, you’re looking for guys that have enough experience and have been there and done that before, so that left us with Russell and Wingert and on talking to both of them, Wingert felt like he wanted to do it. He felt more comfortable doing it. He’s a little bit more of a vocal player so it felt like the right choice to me. It wasn’t perfect, certainly. To be fair, it was a night that our center-backs were going to be very busy. With the amount of balls that were served into their forwards, they forced a lot of mistakes. But we need to take the next couple of days and really review the video critically with those two players because if they’re going to be in there again, we’re going to need improved performance.”
(On the foul resulting in a penalty kick that Osvaldo Alonso was able to convert…) “I thought it was a travesty, an absolute travesty. Our player got pulled down and for some – I don’t know what happened, if he just got color-blind at that moment or what, but that was ridiculous.”
(On what it means to him for his players to come up to Seattle and hang onto the lead and move on to the next round…) “It’s important. I think that it’s funny. I’m sitting there going, ‘Isn’t this our year?’ Watching the series actually, isn’t this our year? Four days ago we’re just completely dominant and tonight we’re back on our heels and being dominated. In the span of four days, sometimes that can be difficult to figure out but our guys battled through and believed in each other and kept at it and kept their nose down through some very, very difficult play, difficult decisions by the referee and a difficult atmosphere. But we move on and we’ll look for a better performance in the next round.”
(On if he was worried after Seattle’s second goal and the ensuing swarming attack…) “Of course. I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘Oh, for sure, I thought we were going to be fine.’ No, I was very, very concerned. But again, our guys fought through and kept battling and ended up making some good plays at the end of that game to move us on.”
(On the decision to pull Alvaro Saborio for Yordany Alvarez in the 76th minute…) “The Sabo decision was to change shape and to give us another holding midfielder in front of our back four. It felt like their central pair was getting a little bit too much time in space, especially at the top of our box. I think that was a really good decision because Yordany ended up being critical on a couple of plays. And then [Javier] Morales, he wouldn’t have come out but he had gotten really fatigued. This is going to be a challenging situation, let’s face it. Javi hasn’t played matches in a very long time so to ask him to play three matches in a week may be difficult.”
(On if there’s a way to turn the negatives from tonight into positives…) “Absolutely. I think that in some ways it may have been good that we didn’t play that well tonight, to get our feet back on the ground and to say to a team that won the game 3-0 that that was probably the peak of our peak, and this may be the low of our low. So we need to perform somewhere in the middle this weekend.”
Chris Wingert – Real Salt Lake Defender
(On the crazy night of playing in the middle…) “I don’t think it was being in the middle as it was that we were just under. Those games, they’re kind of… they’re not very fun. I hate to say it but you almost know it’s going to be like that. You want to say that hopefully we can possess the ball and create some chances and get in their end but I don’t know what it is. It’s just the nature of the game. It tends to be like that. Naturally it was and credit to the guys. It was an unbelievable battle from everybody the whole game, but especially the first half. And then for them to get two early ones in the second half, it’s just like, ‘Oh, man. We’re going to have to outlast this for whatever it was, 25 or 30 minutes.’ But it worked so… I’m just excited to go back to being in a game where hopefully we can possess the ball and play and it’ll be a lot more fun.”
(On if he was ever worried that the series was going the wrong direction…) “A little bit, yeah, especially when we had a penalty kick in the first few minutes of the second half and then we know that that’s going to give them a little momentum and naturally, maybe it puts us on our heels a little bit. But that’s the way it goes. And then they bury the second one. We just kind of kept looking at each other saying, ‘Keep battling, keep fighting.’ What else can you do? The tough part is that when you’re playing like that for 60 minutes and they’re pumping balls in and coming at you, coming at you, and you’re defending, it’s hard to just flip the switch and say, ‘Okay, now it’s a close game so let’s go forward and knock it around.’ It usually doesn’t happen like that unless you have your best run or something like that. It certainly wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t ideal, but at the same time, I don’t think anybody really cares at this point. Onto the next one and time to focus on this weekend.”
(On how much the conditions contributed to their ability to possess the ball…) “It was tough, even in the back. I had a few backups where I did a terrible job of clearing and you’re in a little bit of panic mode to make a touch, just because you know that they’re stepping up and pressing and you don’t want the ball to skip away from you on the turf, which happens sometimes. You can’t take a chance in the back, which was happening in the midfield. So it certainly played into it a bit but you just got to deal with the conditions and do the best you can. I can’t say enough about the effort from our guys. It was amazing. Guys were diving and blocking shots and throwing their bodies around and just sacrificing everything they had. In the end it worked for us.”
Nick Rimando – Real Salt Lake Goalkeeper
(On withstanding Seattle’s offensive attack…) “Yeah, it was tough. It felt like we were down the whole game. But we battled. It was one of those games where we had to battle and stick in there to the end through a lot of adversity. Take that any way you guys want to take it but I think we stuck in there and we advanced. This loss feels like a win for sure because we got to advance and we get to play the winner of L.A. – New York. So the guys fought hard and, all in all, we did what we had to do, even if it was a loss.”
(On what he thought when Seattle was awarded the penalty kick…) “I was actually going to take the free kick. I thought it was ours and I think everybody in the stadium thought it was theirs. But it’s the ref’s decision and we can’t spite that at all. So Alonso stepped up and buried one down the middle and they ended up getting another one and it became a game. I think that’s what the fans wanted and they got it.”
(On his defenders…) “I thought our defenders did great. Having Wingert go inside where he doesn’t normally play and to come into a place like this and to fight and to battle and to play against Montero and Fucito, I thought we handled them great. I think in the second half, they didn’t have anything and then they get the PK, get the momentum. They fed their guys forward. They’re going to get chances when they throw the whole house at you. I thought everybody played well in front of me and defended to the end and that’s what we expected.”
Tony Beltran – Real Salt Lake Defender
(On his clearance in the first half, heading the shot away from the goal…) “I’m not really sure what happened, it happened so fast. But I think it was a cross-in and just kind of a half clearance and when Nick [Rimando] came out I made sure when he did that I was getting back in the goal just in case there was a rebound. Whoever struck it, struck it really well and I was able to make a good reaction and clear it of the goal.”
(On his clearance in the first half that Sigi Schmid said could have been a game-changer…) “Yeah, it would have definitely made things much harder on us. Although, even if that goes in, they’d have the advantage at that point but we could have managed the game from there. But yeah, it was definitely a boost to go in at halftime 0-0.”
(On the foul called, awarding Seattle a PK…) “I’m going to have to look at it again before I comment on it, but all I know is I took an elbow to the face, probably the hardest elbow I think I’ve ever had, probably almost broke my nose, so I’m not really sure where the foul was. But maybe when I see it again, I can recognize it.”