Sandy, UT (Sports Network) - Seattle Sounders FC heads to Rio Tinto Stadium
for a decisive battle with Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference semifinals
on Thursday, and the visitors could be poised for a victory.
The two clubs opened up the two-legged playoff series with a scoreless draw at
CenturyLink Field on Friday, a result that greatly favors the Claret and
Cobalt after goalkeeper Nick Rimando produced countless stunning saves to deny
the Sounders a telling goal.
Seattle did not fare well at Rio Tinto when it fell behind with a 3-0 loss in
the first leg of last season's Western Conference semifinals, but head coach
Sigi Schmid insists that this Sounders team is better-equipped to come away
with a positive result.
"I think we came out and just didn't play well," Schmid told. "We didn't play
well and they punished us early and got on top and we could never grab the
game back. We were a little bit naive in how we tried to grab the game back,
but I think we learned from there and we're a better team than we were last
year when we played them in the playoffs."
Real Salt Lake has put up a 42-8-16 home record in MLS play since Rio Tinto
opened in 2008, but the club showed some vulnerability at the venue by losing
four times there this season.
"We believe in our quality, we know they're a very good team, as well, but we
know we've been able to go there in the past and play good games and get good
results and that's our expectations," Schmid continued. "We have high
expectations of ourselves, we know it's going to be a close game. It's going
to be a battle and we're ready to go."
Playing in front of a home crowd on Thursday, Real Salt Lake should be able to
get forward a bit more after hunkering down in Seattle. The performance in the
first leg can be personified by Rimando's heroics, a showing that head coach
Jason Kreis could not praise highly enough.
"I just got off the radio and said it, and I'll say it again," Kreis said
after the match. "I think it will have to go down as one of the single best
individual performances by any player that's ever worn an RSL jersey."
To make Rimando's display even more legendary, the goalkeeper suffered a
broken nose during the run of play but still managed to keep a clean sheet in
one of the toughest road environments in MLS.
"We thought he was going to have to come out," Kreis said. "We thought it was
going to be a laceration that they couldn't get the blood stopped, and if
that's the case, then he has to come out. They did a good job getting the
blood stopped and Nick continued on with a real brave effort."
The Sports Network