Mario Martinez made his first start in Major League Soccer count.
After yet another 81 minutes of scoreless soccer between Sounders FC and Real Salt Lake, Martinez sizzled a low line drive into the net.
Nine minutes of regulation and five minutes of stoppage time later, and Seattle celebrated the first playoff win in its four-season existence.
The result sends the Sounders through to the Western Conference final against the Los Angeles Galaxy. Coming into the match, neither team had scored in the last 309 minutes of the series, counting back to May. The Sounders hadn’t scored on RSL since the 2011 playoffs.
This match began like more of the same, but with the added the wild-card element of a stiff wind, blowing from the south. That put it to the Sounders’ backs in the first half. However, they could not take advantage, although they had a couple of solid chances: one by Christian Tiffert, who fired wide; and another by Martinez, which was knocked over the crossbar by RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
Things reversed in the second half, when Salt Lake played with the wind at its backs and coverted into several solid chances.
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid made a couple of key lineup changes from the first match. Leading scorer Eddie Johnson returned to the lineup in place of Sammy Ochoa, after missing the series opening with a leg injury. He also made the decision to start Martinez in place of club assists-leader Mauro Rosales, who was held out with a hamstring injury.
I’ll be back with more soon.
81th minute: GOAL Seattle. Mario Martinez low rocket from just inside left side of penalty area. As brilliant a strike as we’ve seen this season. Seattle, 1-0.
Through 60: RSL more dangerous with the wind, but both clubs have had chances. Scoreless.
Second half: … begins with low Evans rocket on frame, which Rimando gets to.
First 40 minutes: Scoreless. Better chances to Sounders (who have wind at backs). Getting chippy. Ref letting them play.
First 20 minutes: Scoreless. Tiffert had a promising chance for Sounders with a little space and decent angle, but fired wide.
First 10 minutes: Scoreless. Maybe best chance by RSL’s Grabavoy, but not much of one. Wind affecting long passes and crosses.
First kick: We’re under way. RSL in red/red; Sounders in rave/rave.
Wind mostly to Sounders’ backs this half.
Nice, into-it crowd. But not quite a sellout.
Lineup change for RSL: Mansally into starting lineup for Wingert, who had a leg issue in warmups.
Lineups: For Seattle: GK Gspurning; D Johansson, Parke, Hurtado, Burch; M Tiffert, Alonso, Evans, Martinez; F Montero, Johnson. Reserves: Hahnemann, Scott, Rose, Caskey, Zakuani, Estrada, Ochoa.
For RSL: GK Rimando; D Beltran, Olave, Borchers, Wingert, Grabavoy, Beckerman, Morales, Johnson; F Junior, Saborio. Reserves: Watson-Siriboe, Alvarez, Gil, Steele, Reynish, Mansally, Espindola.
Pregame: I’ve arrived at Rio Tinto Stadium for tonight’s Sounders-RSL playoff match.
First kick, 8 p.m. (Pacific). The game is on KONG locally, Root regionally, and NBCSN nationally. It also is on regular radio outlets, blogged here, and tweeted @donruiztnt.
As you undoubtly know, there must be a result, so if tied after 90 minutes there would be 30 minutes of extra time, and if the tie remains, the series would be settled by penalty kicks.
Winner goes on to Los Angeles, apparently at 6 p.m. Sunday. Loser, of course, is out.
I’ll be back with news as it happens. Lineups could be especially interesting.