Real Salt Lake’s unbeaten record is gone, and spectacularly so. Thanks to goals from Gonzalo Pineda, Marco Pappa, Chad Barrett, and Obafemi Martins, the league-leading Seattle Sounders have erased the “0” from RSL’s loss column, handing head coach Jeff Cassar his first loss after a 4-0 result Saturday at CenturyLink Field.
Though the teams made it to halftime with only Pineda’s 42nd minute penalty kick separating the sides, a 20-yard direct kick from from Pappa doubled Seattle’s lead in the 55th minute. Seven minutes later, Barrett blew the game open, finishing from wide of goal inside that same left post. When Martins ran onto a late square ball from Kenny Cooper in the 90th minute, Seattle had its most lopsided win of the season.
Given the tight nature of the first half, the final score may have exaggerated the difference between the sides. Still, this was clearly Seattle’s day. Real Salt Lake didn’t register its first shot on target until the 72nd minute, by which time they were already down three goals. Though it took an Aaron Maund penalty to give Seattle its lead (and another Maund foul to double it), the Sounders never let RSL back into the match. With João Plata injured and Javier Morales contained, the visitors didn’t have the firepower to keep up after Pappa’s goal.
More thoughts on Saturday afternoon’s result:
1. Seattle’s depth pays off – Both the Sounders and RSL typically have enviable depth, a testament to each organization’s front office, but on Saturday, the Sounders’ peripheral players outshined Real Salt Lake’s. Between Pappa, Barrett, Cooper and Lamar Neagle, Sigi Schmid got two goals, two assists, and seven “key passes” from players who normally fight for two spots in the lineup. For Cassar, Luke Mulholland, Cole Grossman, Olmes Garcia, and Devon Sandoval all struggled to make an impact on the match.
2. Javier Morales kept quiet – It’s not that Morales was bad as much as he wasn’t great, and without Álvaro Saborío and Plata in the lineup, RSL needed their best player to be special to help counter that Seattle depth. Morales led the game in both passes and touches, but he also led his team in turnovers and was disposed another three times by Seattle’s midfield. Part of the is purely a function of how many times he was on the ball, but without his best weapons at his disposal, Morales couldn’t get it done.
3. Result was important, though not necessarily telling – With both teams missing some of their best players, this game didn’t tell us that much about how the contenders will match up come fall. It did, however, give Seattle valuable points at the top of the Western Conference. The Sounders now have a five-point lead on second place RSL.