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2nd-half surge carries RSL to 2-0 victory over Seattle
September 23, 2017

SANDY—A pair of second half goals from Jefferson Savarino and Luke Mulholland helped Real Salt Lake down the Seattle Sounders 2-0 Saturday, thereby ending the Sounders’ 13-game winning streak and advancing RSL’s season record to 12-14-5.

With last week’s victory over the Portland Timbers pushing the Claret and Cobalt above the playoff line, RSL (41 points) continued its climb Saturday, as they now sit in fifth place in the Western Conference — ahead of fellow playoff chasers in the Houston Dynamo, San Jose Earthquakes and FC Dallas.

“The last ten or dozen games, we’ve turned a corner this season,” said RSL midfielder Luke Mullholland. “We’re slowly turning Rio Tinto back into a fortress.

“And I think if we can take care of business, especially at home — we’ll see what we can do on the road — we’ll leave ourselves with a really good opportunity to get into the playoffs.”

RSL’s victory gives them some much-needed breathing room in the Western Conference playoff race. Entering the final stretch of the season, RSL only has three matches remaining while their closest competition all own at least a game in hand on them.

As RSL now stares at consecutive road games, head coach Mike Petke spoke of his team’s playoff-like mentality and the importance of their remaining games.

“This was three points tonight that we needed and wanted and felt that we could get,” Petke said. “Our mentality right now is we need to get three points every game. Our mentality going into L.A. might change a little bit tactically because we’re on the road, but our mindset is the same. We’re not going to sit back. We have to go.”

For RSL, Saturday’s match was a tale of two halves, with the first half colored equally by missed opportunities and dodged bullets. In the second minute, RSL midfielder Albert Rusnak had a chance to open scoring when he broke free into the open field with only a defender at his side, but watched as his kick banged off the crossbar.

Later, a chance for Seattle to capitalize on an empty-net goal presented itself when RSL goalie Nick Rimando stepped up in the box and allowed Will Bruin of the Sounders to get behind him. But in what proved to be one of the biggest plays of the night, RSL defender Justen Glad made a goal-saving tackle on Bruin before a shot attempt was made.

“I’ve said it before: Justen plays beyond his years,” Petke said. “He reads the game far, far better than any player at his age I think in this league. And that’s one example of it.”

The game remained at a scoreless tie until the 52nd minute when Jefferson Savarino scored the go-ahead goal from the right corner of the box off a well-placed Albert Rusnak pass. After scoring the initial goal, Savarino was involved on RSL’s final scoring play as well, as he assisted Luke Mullholland in the 66th minute to stretch their lead to 2-0.

For RSL’s attackers, the added time on the field together has the team peaking at the right time.

“The more time we spend on the field, the better we understand each other,” Rusnak said. “And you can see that on the field in the last few months, I would say. That we understand each other, and I guess all of the attacking players, we are similar to one another, and we’re on the same page.”