Salt Lake advances despite Seattle's 2-0 win

Associated Press
Seattle Sounders' Brad Evans lies on the ground after an injury in the first half of a MLS playoff soccer match against Real Salt Lake, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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SEATTLE (AP) — Osvaldo Alonso and Lamar Neagle scored five minutes apart early in the second half for Seattle, but Real Salt Lake advanced to the Western Conference final with a 3-2 aggregate victory over the Seattle Sounders FC on Wednesday night.

The loss ended the career of Seattle goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who previously announced he would retire after the season.

Trailing 3-0 after a loss on the road Saturday night, and with just 45 minutes remaining in their season on Wednesday night, the Sounders turned the final 30 minutes into a frantic mess, and that came after a breakneck first half where Seattle nearly scored on numerous occasions.

But Salt Lake did just enough and advanced to Major League Soccer's final four for the second time in three years. Salt Lake won the 2009 MLS Cup on Seattle's home field.

Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando was peppered with shots all night, but the biggest save for Salt Lake came in the first half when Rimando left his net exposed and Tony Beltran headed Jeff Parke's blast from the top of the penalty area over the crossbar.

Meanwhile the Sounders, after the most successful season in the franchise's three years, were dispatched in the conference semifinals yet again and brought Keller's illustrious career to an end.

It was a complete change from the game played last Saturday in Utah when Salt Lake controlled every aspect and built what seemed to be an insurmountable advantage behind two goals from Alvaro Saborio and one from Ned Grabavoy.

But Salt Lake was vulnerable, playing without central defenders Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers and that vulnerability was exploited all night by Seattle.

Alonso got Seattle on the board with the first home playoff goal in franchise history — three years in — when he converted a penalty kick in the 56th minute. Beltran pulled down Mike Fucito in the penalty area and was given a yellow card for the foul. Alonso converted the penalty with a shot directly at Rimando that couldn't be stopped.

Five minutes later Seattle really made things nervous for Salt Lake when Alonso settled a loose ball outside the penalty area to Montero. Seattle's star striker dropped a pass into space where Neagle ran on and put a left-footed shot across Rimando's body and just inside the far post.

But Seattle failed to get a dangerous attempt on net in the final 30 minutes as Salt Lake packed in its defense and drained seconds off the clock at every opportunity.

Salt Lake will face either New York or Los Angeles in the conference final this weekend.

If Seattle was going to make the night a little uncomfortable for Salt Lake, the belief was it needed a goal in the first half. From the start the Sounders created a frenetic pace with defenders pushing forward regularly and leaving themselves open for potential counter attacks.

Yet Seattle controlled possession and chances wiuht its best opportunity coming in the 36th minute on Parke's shot that was headed away by Beltran.

Seattle later had a goal disallowed after Montero clearly interfered with Rimando's attempt to make a save.

Seattle was also forced to sub out Alvaro Fernandez and Brad Evans in the first 21 minutes of the match. Fernandez left with a hamstring injury, while Evans had to be helped back to the bench with a right ankle injury.

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