Real Salt Lake traveled to Seattle with the intention of getting a win against the Sounders that would allow them to take over the lead in the race for the Supporters’ Shield. However, they ended up pulling just one point after a 0-0 draw.
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Despite the blank score, RSL head coach Jason Kreis was pleased with the result and the effort his players put forth, and that's because RSL's plan suffered their first major blow before the game even started.
Stalwart goalkeeper Nick Rimando was deemed unable to go due to an Achilles injury, one that actually capped off a string of setbacks that affected coach Kreis’ pool of players to choose from for this match.
That string started off during last week’s match against the New York Red Bulls. During that match, RSL defender Jamison Olave saw a yellow card, earning him a suspension, and Fabian Espindola and Ned Grabavoy picked up injuries. Those events caused the absences of the three key RSL cogs Thursday night against Seattle.
As it turned out, Real Salt Lake were able to earn the scoreless draw in this one as a result of some stellar play by the players filling in for the missing starters, and one could argue that Claret-and-Cobalt should have walked away with the victory.
Robbie Findley created a penalty kick in the first half with his blazing speed. He stepped up to the spot and took the kick, but it was a poor attempt that was easily stopped by Kasey Keller.
"I was taken down in the box and stepped up to take the shot,” said Findley, who didn’t elaborate much about the game’s most crucial play. “I didn't hit it that well and he made a good save. Nothing more than that, really."
The fact that he took the kick was somewhat of a surprise, as Findley has not been playing with a lot of confidence in recent weeks and appears to be over-thinking some of the opportunities that he gets.
“I think it’s gonna take a lucky bounce,” said Kreis on ESPN 700 Sports Radio about Findley’s recent struggles. “I’ve been in his shoes, and I want to be clear – I think Robbie put in an outstanding effort out there for us tonight. He worked extremely hard defensively and was important for that result.”
A number of the reserves played very well, including midfielder Nelson Gonzalez, goalkeeper Kyle Reynish, and defender Tony Beltran and Chris Schuler.
Schuler, a third-round draft pick out of Creighton, was a surprise selection to replace Olave. The 6-foot-4 rookie made his MLS debut in front of the energetic crowd in Seattle, a tough situation for any player to perform in, but Schuler kept cool and used his height and reach to thwart several opportunities from the dangerous Sounders.
“We have been really patient with Chris and have taken our time with him,” Kreis said after the match, qualifying his player’s effort as flawless. “He stepped into arguably one of the most difficult places in the entire league and just didn't put a foot wrong. He has so much personality and competitive fire.”
Although they came in looking for the victory and the spoils that would come along with it, the team has to be pleased with a draw given the difficult circumstances.
"I'm thrilled for more reasons than just the result," said Kreis. "The guys put in great effort tonight and the attention to detail was amazing. The commitment level was just second to none."
The draw momentarily puts Real Salt Lake in a tie for first with Los Angeles and Columbus – who play each other on Saturday – in the race for the Shield.