Real Salt Lake Stun Seattle In Penalty Shootout To Advance To Conference Semifinal
SALT LAKE CITY – Real Salt Lake beat second-seed Seattle Sounders with the sixth kick of a penalty shoot-out to eliminate the Sounders and book a date with Sporting Kansas City in the conference semifinals.
Real Salt Lake was the only away team to advance from the first round of the 2021 MLS playoffs.
“The onus is on the home team to play an attractive brand and the onus is on us to find a way to win,” interim manager Pablo Mastroeni said immediately following the game when asked about the unattractive style of play his team showed against Seattle.
Interim manager Pablo Mastroeni was forced to start Jonathan Menéndez following a positive COVID-19 test from captain Albert Rusnák who was ruled out of the game just hours before kickoff.
Real Salt Lake opted to play in the 4-2-3-1 formation, just as they did when they beat Sporting Kansas City on decision day to cement a place in the MLS playoffs. David Ochoa started in goal with Andrew Brody, Marcelo Silva, Justen Glad, and Aaron Herrera rounding out the backline. Everton Luiz and Pablo Ruiz started in the center of the park with Menéndez, Kreilach, and Maikel Chang playing just behind Rubio Rubin.
— Real Salt Lake (@realsaltlake) November 24, 2021
The opening half was a defensive stalemate. No team was able to break the deadlock throughout the opening 45 minutes with Real Salt Lake not able to generate a shot. Seattle also struggled in front of goal and was unable to generate a shot on target themselves.
However, Seattle as expected controlled the tempo and speed of the contest. The hosts thrived off the home-field advantage and dominated the midfield battle.
The best moment of the half came when João Paulo Mior played a ball into the area that found Jordan Morris alone on the six-yard line but Morris was unable to get solid contact on the ball. Morris was later deemed offside.
Sounders manager Brian Schmetzer opted to bring on leading goalscorer Rui Ruidíaz at halftime.
The opening 15 minutes of the second half belonged to Seattle. The hosts began to pick up the tempo and started to seriously pepper the goal of Ochoa. Early in the second half, Ochoa picked up a yellow card for time-wasting in an effort to slow the game down.
Brad Smith was constantly flying down the left-flank and Real Salt Lake was struggling to contain the Australian. Then, in the 73rd minute, Ruidíaz struck a shot from well outside the area that beat Ochoa and pinged off the crossbar. Real Salt Lake survived.
— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) November 24, 2021
Minutes later Justin Meram, who entered the fixture moments earlier for Menéndez, committed a foul by the corner flag. The ensuing free kick by Mior found the head of defender Yeimar Gómez on the six-yard line but was comfortably saved by Ochoa on his goal line.
Mastroeni brought on Bobby Wood for Rubin and Anderson Julio for Maikel Chang in two separate interchange windows and as a result Real Salt Lake was not allowed to make another substitution in regular time.
Justin Glad was then booked in the 83rd minute following a hefty hip-check around midfield and the game remained scoreless.
At the end of regulation, Seattle had 15 shots with 2 on target to 0 shots for Real Salt Lake. The Sounders also dominated 61 percent of the possession and managed 9 corners to Real’s 0.
The opening minutes of extra time saw Marcelo Silva clear a ball from deep inside the Real Salt Lake half but on the follow-through, his swinging right boot caught the knee of Christian Roldan who immediately fell to the ground in immense pain. Fortunately, Roldan was okay and was able to continue. The challenge was looked at by VAR and was deemed fair by the video review.
With one minute left in the first half of extra time, Nicolás Lodeiro came off the bench and replaced Jordan Morris. It was just the 10th appearance Lodeiro had made this season after enduring two right-knee surgeries throughout the 2021 MLS season.
In the dying minutes of the first half of extra time, Seattle and Lodeiro had four consecutive corner kicks. Three of the corners were cleared for another corner by Wood at the near post.
Ashtone Morgan replaced Andrew Brody at the second half-time of the game. Brody struggled to find his composure throughout the game.
Real Salt Lake still had not registered a shot through 105 minutes played. Seattle had registered 17 shots, with only 2 of them coming on frame.
Ruidíaz was then shown yellow in the 109th minute when he pushed Glad into the advertisement boards while fighting for a 50/50 ball.
The first Real Salt Lake corner came in the 109th minute but the Sounders cleared the cross at the near post and conceded a Real throw-in.
Despite the growing pressure, the final whistle blew and the game was destined for a penalty shoot-out.
Ruidiaz stepped up to the spot first and buried it in the bottom right-hand corner.
Herrera then beat Stefan Frei in the bottom left corner despite Frei guessing correctly.
João Paulo then sent Ochoa the wrong way and scored.
Pablo Ruiz was then denied by Frei but remarkably, Frei stepped off his line and Ruiz got another chance and buried the shot. The tally remained level at 2-2.
Cissoko, who came on very late in the game for Seattle, found the bottom left corner. Ochoa was sent the wrong way again.
Kreilach then scored by hitting the top-right corner and the deadlock remained at 3 apiece.
Alex Roldan followed in Kreilach’s footsteps and put it in the same area as Kreilach.
Bobby Wood calmly scored in the bottom-right corner.
Lodeiro then beat Ochoa despite getting a glove to the shot.
Marcelo Silva then sent Frei the wrong way and the penalty shoot-out went to a sixth round.
Former Real Salt Lake midfielder Kelyn Rowe was then denied by Ochoa and Real Salt Lake had a chance to win.
That they did when Justen Glad scored and sent Real Salt Lake into the semifinals of the MLS Cup playoffs.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) November 24, 2021
“All of the PK’s I try and go with instinct and I try to wait them out for as long as I can,” Ochoa admitted after the game. “I did notice that the first five PK’s they all shot to my right and I dove to my left but like I said I like to go on instinct and I thought I waited him out pretty good and it is a great feeling. It is a great feeling.”
Real Salt Lake will return to Children’s Mercy Park to play Sporting Kansas City on November 28 in the conference semifinals.
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