Super Mario: Martinez lifts Seattle over RSL Sends Sounders to first-ever conference finals appearance
By SPORTS NETWORK
|Will Johnson of Real Salt Lake fights for the ball with Mario Martinez of the Seattle Sounders during MLS Western Conference Semifinals play-off soccer on November 8, 2012 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. (AFP)
Seattle Sounders FC needed more than seven hours to score against Real Salt Lake this season.
They got only goal that matters Thursday night.
Mario Martinez scored off a half-volley with nine minutes remaining as Seattle beat Real Salt Lake, 1-0, at Rio Tinto Stadium to win their Western Conference semifinal aggregate series by the same score, 1-0.
Seattle and Real Salt Lake tied the first game, 0-0. Sounders FC did not score in three regular-season matches against RSL, with the last two also 0-0.
Sounders FC advanced to the conference final for the first time and will visit the defending MLS Cup champion Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday for the first leg. Seattle will host the second leg on Nov. 18.
Nick Rimando was the hero for Real in the first match, as he posted his fourth shutout in as many matches despite suffering a broken nose and cuts around his right eye.
Rimando was again the difference for 80-plus minutes in the second game, as he deflected a shot from Martinez off the crossbar in the first half and tipped a shot from Brad Evans off the right post in the opening minutes of the second.
Martinez finally solved Rimando in the 81st minute, when Evans passed to Fredy Montero, who fed Martinez on the left side of the penalty area. Martinez lined up a shot and unleashed a half-volley that was perfectly placed.
Martinez curled his shot past a diving Rimando and just inside the right post, as Seattle ended a 441-minute scoring drought against Real this season and its playoff drought.
The Sounders advanced to the postseason in their first three years in MLS, but failed to advance before the win over Real Salt Lake in their fourth attempt.