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August 16, 2014 at 1:47 PM

First impressions: Real Salt Lake 2, Sounders 1

SALT LAKE CITY – First impressions from Seattle’s 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday, as Chad Barrett’s 71st minute goal and an impassioned late rally weren’t enough to cancel out a tally from Joao Plata and an own goal from Osvaldo Alonso.

– The Sounders have to find a way to get Dempsey involved earlier.

The Seattle attack lacked cohesion throughout the first half – miscommunications on give-and-go’s, passes behind cutting teammates – especially when trying to connect with their leading man up top.

Clint Dempsey was sporting the captain’s armband on Saturday for a reason. He was brought to Seattle for big matches like this, with Supporter’s Shield stakes and seeding on the line.

But for most of the first half Saturday, he floated in and out of the action, with little in the way of service or a willingness to drop deeper. A moment in the 30th minute was telling: Leo Gonzalez looped in a pass across the penalty area. Dempsey backpedaled toward it while Evans crashed in off the edge of the box – then they collided, and the chance was lost.

Dempsey rose to the occasion in the final half hour.

He tracked back and stormed forward, and it was his deflected shot that lead to Chad Barrett’s headed goal in the 71st. The goal cut RSL’s lead to 2-1 and restored belief in a possible Seattle comeback. Dempsey kept hurtling forward, his shots inching closer and closer.

But one wonders what the effect would have been had he flipped the switch earlier.

– Seattle wasn’t sharp enough.

Real Salt Lake opened the scoring eight minutes after the break, when Olmes Garcia tussled with Zach Scott on the right flank to earn a free kick. Luke Mulholland lifted a free kick toward the back post, where none other than 5-foot-2 Joao Plata rose above his non-existent markers to head the ball in.

Four minutes after that, the Sounders gave the ball away at the top of their own box. Luis Gil pounced, Mulholland deflected the through ball off Alonso and RSL was in full command.

From back to front, Salt Lake was the sharper side for most of Saturday’s match. Its goals reflected that.

– Real Salt Lake needed this game more than Seattle did

RSL entered Saturday two points behind the Sounders in the overall and Western Conference standings, and Seattle also boasts a pair of games in hand.

Salt Lake was also coming off a mid-week friendly, whereas Seattle had to play for its Open Cup life against Chicago on Wednesday.

In the midst of a torrid run of games and in a hostile environment, an argument could be made for Seattle battening down the hatches and trying to survive with a point.

The first hour wasn’t particularly easy on Sounder eyes, especially during the stretches when RSL poured forward without much fear of reprisal.

The Sounders could have taken control of the West for good and opened up a five-point gap to go along with those precious games in hand. Instead, they looked content to maintain the status quo.

They were punished in the second half, and RSL is now atop the Western Conference.

By the time the valiant rally came, it was too late.

| More in MLS, Sounders FC


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