2012 Nov 8

Sounders FC advance to playoff semifinals thanks to a wonder strike from Mario Martinez

Real Salt Lake  0 - 1  Seattle Sounders FC
Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, UT

81' SEA: Mario Martinez (Fredy Montero, Brad Evans)

Salt Lake: Nick Rimando; Tony Beltran (Luis Gil 85'), Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, Kenny Mansally (Jonny Steele 86'); Ned Grabavoy, Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Will Johnson; Paulo Junior (Fabian Espindola 58'), Alvaro Saborio.
Substitutes not used: Kyle Reynish, Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Yordany Alvarez, Sebastian Velasquez.

Seattle: Michael Gspurning; Adam Johansson, Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Marc Burch; Christian Tiffert (Andy Rose 73'), Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Mario Martinez (Zach Scott 87'); Fredy Montero (David Estrada 89'), Eddie Johnson.
Substitutes not used: Marcus Hahnemann, Alex Caskey, Steve Zakuani, Sammy Ochoa.

Match report from Ron Stickney:

An amazing strike from Mario Martinez was the lone goal in the two-match series, sending the Sounders on to the Western Conference final against the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Martinez' goal was Seattle's first in five matches against Salt Lake this year. Salt Lake scored just one goal themselves in those five matches, and were shut out by Michael Gspurning and his defense in this playoff series.

Both sides had chances in the first half but couldn't finish them. The strong wind was partially to blame, making ground passes run away downwind and making air passes float off target.

Salt Lake was first to threaten, when Alvaro Saborio gave the overlapping Ned Grabavoy a chance from a steep angle on the left which was saved by Gspurning at the near post.

Seattle's first chance came at 17' when Fredy Montero served Christian Tiffert on the right for a good look, but he missed wide of the far post.

Salt Lake's best chance of the match when Kenny Mansally's cross got by Jeff Parke for Paulo Jr at the left post, and his shin shot went wide of the goal. Will Johnson took a chip shot from a Salt Lake corner kick and Gspurning was there for the save.

At 24' Seattle's Tiffert left with a bloodied head after being elbowed by Jamison Olave. Tiffert was back on the pitch five minutes later with a fresh, no-number shirt. He reportedly had the wound stapled.

At a half hour Mario Martinez took a nice 25-yard free kick that was touched onto the crossbar by goalkeeper Nick Rimando.

Salt Lake's Will Johnson and Seattle's Eddie Johnson had chances near halftime, but failed to put the ball where they wanted it.

Seattle opened the second half quickly with a hard, low shot by Brad Evans from the 18 off a Tiffert cross, and Rimando collapsed on it for the best save of the match. Eddie Johnson was next to receive a Tiffert cross with a look, but couldn't get enough power on the floater.

Salt Lake's first shot of the half came at 55' when Saborio carried the ball to the top of the arc, then missed badly with the shot. Javier Morales' long free kick from the touch line floated over the crowd in front of goal and Gspurning had to react fast to slap it away at the far post. Kyle Beckerman's cross was carried by the wind over Adam Johansson to Nat Borchers' chest in front of goal, but the chested shot was too soft to beat Gspurning.

The momentum shifted back to Seattle at 64' when a cross past goal was centered for a Montero header in front of goal that went barely wide. On the play, Tony Beltran was bloodied from heading into the back of Evans' head as Evans headed the ball.

Salt Lake substitute Fabian Espindola split the last two defenders for a chance, but Gspurning was out to the edge of his penalty area to block the ball. Salt Lake's next chance came from a Seattle turnover and ended with Saborio firing a 25-yard shot up the middle, forcing a collapsing save by Gspurning.

81' SEA: Martinez (Montero, Evans). Evans started the play when he intercepted a Salt lake pass in his own end and went on a run forward. He worked a give and go pass with Eddie Johnson to get over the halfway line and into open space. Approaching the penalty area, he sent a square pass to Montero in the middle, who was holding back from the defensive line. Montero chipped a nice pass over the head of the right defender to Martinez, who struck a shot off the outside of his left foot off the half volley and it bent around Rimando's flying reach and into the lower far corner. 1-0 Seattle.

Salt Lake's chances to tie it were taken first by Espindola from a steep angle at 86', skied. An 89th minute free kick play gave Saborio a header and Gspurning had his best save of the match when he tipped it over the bar. The last chance came when a deflected cross went dangerously in front of Seattle's goal, and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado did well to clear it wide for a corner that was defended.

With Seattle's first playoff series win in MLS, they advance to face the Los Angeles Galaxy in the Western Conference final series.

           SL   SEA
Shots:     14    9
Saves:      4    9
Corners:    7    5
Fouls:     10   13
Offsides:   0    3

51' SEA: Alonso cautioned for sliding under Morales

Referees: Chris Penso; Kermit Quisenberry, Frank Anderson; Drew Fischer

Attendance: 19,657

Postmatch Quotes

Seattle Sounders FC

Sigi Schmid - Head Coach

On the overall take on the game: "Obviously it feels great to win the game. We knew it was going to be a tough game; we knew it was going to be a hard game. We knew they were going to come at us, but I thought we did a good job of absorbing things. We didn't give up too many clean things on goal. Rimando came up big a couple of times. Right at the start of the second half, the save he made on Evans was fantastic. Then Mario Martinez scored an unbelievable goal, and that's what it was going to take in this series. As I said before the game, it was probably going to be a one-goal kind of thing. But I'm proud of the way we battled. Obviously Gspurning came up big at the end of the game when they had corner after corner. But all the guys put everything forth that they could."

On the process of choosing Mario Martinez over Mauro Rosales for tonight's game: "Mauro ... he's better. He's much better. He's improving. Even today he went out and ran a little bit, did some work, and feels much better. I don't know if the first LA game will come in time, but for sure the second game -- he should be all right for that.

"We felt Mario was a player, in terms of fitness, was a guy who had close to 90 minutes in him because of the 90 minutes he played with Honduras. We also knew that his passing could help us. We felt that his ability on set pieces -- we wanted to hit some swinging corners -- could help us, as well. Obviously he delivered for us with a great goal."

On the performance of Michael Gspurning: "Gspurning, I have said all along that he deserves to be Goalkeeper of the Year. A lot of people think he doesn't because of the fact that he missed a series of games. I don't know if you get excluded from awards because you got injured for a few games. He has been a tremendous addition for our team. His height obviously helps him a lot on corners and things like that. He is just a good goalkeeper. Nick Rimando is a great goalkeeper, but Gspurning is right there, for sure. You saw two of the best goalkeepers in the league tonight."

On the indispensability of Brad Evans: "A lot of times Brad takes stick and so forth because he doesn't always look like the smoothest guy, but what Brad is is, he's a warrior. When he steps on the field, he gives you everything he has. He gives you everything he has for 90 minutes and what people don't see from the outside is he's also the one who is talking and organizing. At the start of the second half, we did a better job of making sure that a forward dropped off on Beckerman, and that was Brad that was making sure that stuff got done. But he was courageous. He was blocking shots. He took a dead leg at the end of the game and he still blocks a ball out of bounds. He is just a warrior. But he wasn't the only warrior our there tonight. There were a lot of other guys. Jeff Parke. Jhon Kennedy Hurtado. There were a lot of guys who came in and battled. Obviously Ozzie is always there. They did a great job."

What's it say about your squad that you could come here and get the win?: "We always feel we're a good road team. It's something we've always felt. We've come in here and won before, so we were confident we could do it again. We've been playing good defense. We haven't been giving up many goals, and that's important from our perspective. We knew we could get a goal at the end of the day, eventually. I don't think we were the sharpest offensively today, but that wasn't what was called for. What was called for was rolling up the sleeves and battling."

Ever sense frustration that you wouldn't beat Rimando?: "No, I felt confident. We talked about it at halftime, that it was going to be our time this time. Something was going to happen. We talked before the game. It might be the first minute, it might be the 89th minute, we don't care as long as the goal goes in. We got the goal late and we did what we needed to do. I don't think we ever got frustrated. I think maybe when he made the save on Evans' shot at the beginning of the half the guys maybe felt, 'Aw, geez. Here he goes again.' He made one good save in the first I think, as well. But outside of that, I thought we were good."

On getting the team prepared for the Galaxy psychologically: "We'll get ready for that. LA thought they were playing Salt Lake. They put out a press release and said they were playing Salt Lake, so we hate to disappoint them. That's motivation enough for us right now. We've got to lick our wounds. We have one day less rest, but LA's also played a number of games. Our team will be ready to play. They know what's at stake. We're in the next round. We have to go into LA and do a good job."

Did you need past failure to be able to get through this one?: "We needed to get over this hump more so than anything, and winning this game is really important for our development as a team. The setbacks in the years past have fueled this. When we lost the Open Cup this year on penalty kicks, which were pretty down about because we felt we had a good chance to win that, even in the penalties, it was something like, 'We've got to win some trophy this year. So that's not the one. So let's go after the other one.' There was a quiet confidence in this team that they really want that. Getting over this hurdle today will do oodles for our confidence and will really help us as we go onto the next series."

On travel plans: "We'll see. That's something that could change. We'll see. We've already got certain things planned. The flights have been miserable. We've got to be split onto two different flights to get out. We couldn't get the team on one plane. We've sort of already got a plan in place and if they get one night at home and sleeping, we'll see how we get to LA on Saturday."

What do you remember from the final whistle?: "Elation. Joy. Happiness. Thrilled. Really pleased for the team. Really happy for the team because it's a big hurdle to overcome."

On versatility of midfielders: "It definitely worked out. Tiffert has played on the right before and he's very willing to play wherever I need him. We just felt bringing Evans inside was important in this second leg to help us defensively. We felt Tiffert could get some opportunities, which he did, wide right. Some of his crosses weren't the best. He was off a little bit. I think the hit he took early in the game maybe affected that a bit. Obviously those guys are versatile and can change. We brought Andy Rose in. We were thinking maybe bring Rose in the middle and push Evans out, but Evans had played so good in the middle we wanted to keep him there and Andy had the ability to play on the outside, so the guys did what they needed to do."

Did the wind play a factor?: "Yeah, it made it little bit hard, because the ball was running away from us in the first half, just as it was running away from them a little bit in the second half. Sometimes when it's windy like this it's easier to play into the wind than it is to play with the wind, so the ball will hold up, just like in the first half they got some balls in behind, in the second half, we started getting some balls in behind."

You said this team had been discounted because it hasn't gotten out of first round. What does this win say?: "I think we've been pretty consistent. We've put a team together that has competed from day 1. I think there's the article that basically said we are Salt Lake or Salt Lake is us, or whatever, but it's a situation of we've been very consistent just as they have. This is the first year they finished with more points than us, so as we told them, this is a different competition. It doesn't matter what we did in the regular season. For us as a club to get into the conference finals is very important psychologically, and allows us to continue to grow and build as a club."

Adrian Hanauer

On advancing and getting the monkey off the team's back: "What monkey (laughs)? I was way less worried about monkeys than I was about the conference finals. It just feels good winning. I'm just so happy for our fans, players, the coaches ... everybody who puts energy in. Again, a fantastic team effort and a moment of brilliance."

Mario Martinez

On scoring the winning goal: "I'm happy, not so much because of the goal but because the team actually got the win tonight."

On scoring in his first MLS start: "Always goals give you confidence. It was a great opportunity on the personal side for me ... to be on the field and defend the colors of the team."

On feeling after being frustrated with playing time earlier: "That already happened. I was frustrated personally, but we shouldn't even think about that. We should just take care of the opportunities, and you have to keep working."

Was this the best goal of your career?: "That was one of the most important ones. I have scored some that will always be in my mind."

On his confidence after getting some big minutes: "I knew that I would get my chance, and I got it here in the most important time, the playoffs. I gave everything for the team and for the people who brought me here and have confidence in me."

Fredy Montero

On having to get ready for LA so quickly: "Well, we've never had this experience before -- playing in the final of the conference -- but we are really excited to play against the Galaxy. They are one of the best teams in the league. We showed we are hungry to get to the final, hopefully we have a very good team in LA and we can finish it in Seattle."

On not feeling defeated, like you couldn't beat Rimando: "It wasn't that hard. You work hard to have one opportunity to score. But he's a really good keeper, and you could see how hard we were playing. It wasn't the prettiest game ever, but we played smart, and we were close to them, as I said before this week, all we needed to do was score one goal, and we did, and we won this game."

Michael Gspurning

How's it feel?: "Good. With the history we had, it was pressure on us. We wanted to make the next step. I think now it really should be easier to be a little bit more relaxed and have a good game against LA. To be honest, in the second half, we didn't have quite a lot of the ball, but we did great on the defense again. OK, we're lucky winners, but if you win games when you don't play perfectly, it's a good sign for a good team."

Can you empathize with Rimando a little bit?: "I can feel with him because it feels like the Open Cup was to me. He had two huge games, in Seattle, and today he had two great saves, but soccer is a team sport and I'm proud to be a member of the Sounders. I'm very proud of the team that we made the next step."

What'd you think of the goal?: "Amazing. I'm very happy for him because he had a tough time. He's a national team player and he didn't get quite a lot of time, but it's also a good sign for how much quality we have on the team."

Did you ever feel like you weren't getting enough attention for what you've accomplished with so much attention on Rimando?: "I think I got also my credit because my games were also good. He made more spectacular saves, but he got the possibilities for this. Yeah, I don't want to take anything away from other goalkeepers. He had two good games. I'm looking forward to playing on with my team."

Brad Evans

Did you wonder if you might not be able to beat Rimando, especially after his save on you in the 46th minute?: "Yeah, I mean he's an awesome goalkeeper. First and foremost, credit to them and credit to Nick. He kept them in this series from the first game, as well, and that save was huge, but things happen in games. Things went our way tonight. Sometimes you look back and say, 'Things just didn't go our way.' Tonight, things fell for us and we were fortunate."

What'd you think of Mario's goal?: "It was ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. You see those one or twice a year -- that's it ... It came at a perfect time. With them pressing at the end, you always think that they have a chance. We defended well and we poured a lot of heart into it. Put it in the memory book, learn from it, and then we get going Sunday."

On finally getting past the first round: "It felt great. It feels awesome. Just a monkey off our back. I think everybody feels that way. It's pretty emotional. Guys poured their heart out in the game and that's what it's going to take. That's the bottom line. Take what we did in this last two games and we move on."

Real Salt Lake

Jason Kreis - Head Coach

Thoughts on being the end of an era: "We'll see, we'll see."

Thoughts on scoreless game for tonight, and for the past month: "You have to score goals to win games. It really comes down to a pretty simple game, if you don't score goals you're never going to win games. You have got to win to advance."

Thoughts on positive outcome from the match: "Yeah, come on, let's be fair, our guys worked so hard for it. Really the whole year for me, extremely proud of this group, extremely proud of the effort they put forth tonight. A lot of good things came out of this year, with numbers of wins and numbers of points, and we broke some records for our club, so there were definitely some positive things that we should remember."

Thoughts on the aura of Rio Tinto Stadium: "The aura of Rio Tinto ... You know I think that we were a very confident team at home. We are a team that gets on the front foot and tries to keep our opponents pinned in for most of the match and I think you saw that again tonight. Seattle was living and dying on the counter, and credit to them they had a game plan and they succeeded with it. I hope that, in the grand scheme of things, everything evens out, and that's just the way I see the game. So nobody misinterpret what I'm saying right now, but I hope that if there is a hundred games played, the team that's willing to risk more, the team that's willing to be more bold, the team that's willing to set the tempo and wanting to set the tempo gets results; but for what I have seen over the past couple of days that's not happening."

Thoughts on the fans: "Another game where I thought they were incredible. A lot of games that we get through the middle of the second half and we are dying down and the noise level, but not tonight. They were with it from minute one to minute ninety, so we have to appreciate that, we have to continue to try to draw from that."

Thoughts at being 0-0 at halftime, and knowing the wind was going to be there: "I did, I thought the wind was a real factor, it makes it difficult and plays right into what they are doing, playing so many run-on balls into our box and trying to counter on us. I think it played into what they were doing, so we get to minute 43 I was kind of thinking let's get to halftime 0-0, rather than trying to score that goal right before half, so I thought we had done a good job to get there and I had continued to believe, and I guess I will continue to believe that things will eventually even out and go right for us."

Thoughts on the goalkeepers: "Unbelievable. Again both goalkeepers played incredibly well. The shot that Rimando saved down to his left was a phenomenal save; Gspurning had a couple of really clutch saves for his team, as well. You're going to need that this time of year, you got to have players who will step up and play."

Thoughts on not scoring goals late in the season and the offseason: "I don't know. I think it's important to try to figure out exactly why you're not scoring those goals. For me again, creating the right number of chances, maybe a few decisions were wrong in the final third about where the ball needed to go and when it needed to go. I think it's the typical stance that most people would take is that it falls on the forwards, but not for me, no it falls on everybody to create good goal scoring chances and to take goal scoring chances."

Javier Morales

On how he feels after the loss to Seattle: "We tried hard and just couldn't. We are sad because we wanted to advance and play in the conference finals, but now we are going home."

On getting fouled on various occasions during the match: "Yeah, I got fouled a lot. But that is not the problem. The problem is that we couldn't score in the last five matches and you have to score to win a game. Tonight we tried hard but we couldn't again."

Kyle Beckerman

On not being able to finish: "It's been a while since we scored. I miss celebrating and all that stuff. We just came up short. We gave everything we've got and put the pressure on them. We created a couple of chances that we needed to and we didn't score."

On how he feels about the season as a whole: "We had a lot of fun times. At the end of the season there is only going to be one team that is really happy. But, we had a lot of positives this year."

Will Johnson

On the nature of the MLS playoffs: "It's a bit of a crapshoot. It always has been over the years and it is what it is. It's fun and we enjoy playing in these kind of games. There's so much on the line and anyone can get the MLS Cup. Obviously we experienced that ourselves one year."