Real Salt Lake advances with penalty shootout heroics

SEATTLE, Washington — Utah’s professional soccer team, Real Salt Lake (RSL) (14-14-6, 48 points in reg. season; now 0-0-1 in 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs,) advanced to the Western Conference Semifinal Sunday at Kansas City with a dramatic win in six rounds of penalty kicks over Seattle Sounders FC.

David Ochoa, RSL Goalkeeper said in post-game press conference, “All of the PKs, I tried to go with instinct and wait them out as long as I could. I noticed that on the first five PKs, they all shot to my right and I dove to my left, I was thinking that. But like I said, I like to go by instinct. I thought I waited him out pretty good and it was a great feeling.” 

Last night’s first half at Lumen Field in Seattle saw a battle of the two midfields, as both sides sought to establish dominance and look for open spaces to thread the ball. The first clear opportunity at goal came in the 15th minute when Seattle got what appeared to be a clear chance at goal with David Ochoa pulled out of position, but a block from Justen Gad and then a clearance from Aaron Herrera kept the team out of danger. In the 29 minute, off a free kick, Seattle once again looked to have the easy goal, but a quick reaction and a point-blank block from Ochoa preserved the scoreline. Despite best efforts from both sides, neither team was able to get the upper hand and the first half finished scoreless.

Coming out of the halftime break, Seattle continued to apply pressure in Real Salt Lake’s half of the pitch. In the 50 minute, the Sounders found themselves with a three on two advantage on a counter, but Jordan Morris’ shot missed high and the sides remained scoreless. Another close scoring opportunity came for the home side in minute 62, but a cross into the box was cleared away by Glad. Then following a pass by Morris near the top of the 18-yard box, Raul Ruidiaz fired a right-footed volley toward goal, but his shot was denied by the top-left corner of the frame in the 73 minute. In the final chance of regulation, Andrew Brody intercepted a pass by Joao Paolo to spring Real Salt Lake on the counter, but second-half substitute Anderson Julio was unable to catch up to the pass, and regulation time ended with neither team able to find the winner.

Seattle put together the first scoring opportunity of the first half of extra time in the 103 minute, but Cristian Roldan’s cross into the box toward Ruidiaz was cleared out by Herrera. In the 113 minute the home side was rewarded with a long free-kick, but the flicked-on header was saved by Ochoa and after 120 minutes of play, the sides remained scoreless with penalties to decide the winner.

Through the first five rounds of penalties, each side scored their respective goals – including a Pablo Ruiz re-take of his saved kick from Seattle GK Stefan Frei, who was adjudged via VAR to be off his line – forcing the shootout tiebreaker to a sixth round. Ochoa got into position as former RSL player Kelyn Rowe stepped up to the PK spot. Rowe sent his shot towards the right corner, the same direction Ochoa dove, blocking the shot. From there it was left in the hands of Glad, who calmly walked up and buried his shot – albeit off BOTH posts – to steal the victory and silence 34,000+ in Seattle.

RSL became the first team in MLS history to go 120 minutes without a shot.

UP NEXT: Real Salt Lake will face Sporting Kansas City in the Western Conference Semifinal round of the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs on Sunday, November 28 at 1:00 p.m. MT on ABC.

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