Seattle 0, Real Salt Lake 0: MLS Suffers Midweek Goal Drought

Before we get to the game, let’s say this: Seattle fans are the best fans in Major League Soccer.

There are plenty of other excellent fan bases out there—the ones in Chicago, Toronto, and DC come to mind—but Seattle has the best, and really, it’s not even close.

Sounders fans pack Qwest Field for each and every game, 36,000 strong, and they maintain a steady thrumming atmosphere of singing, chanting (Left side of the stadium: “See-aaatttle!” Right side: “Soouuuunnderrrs!”), bleacher-bouncing, and cheering.

It’s absolutely first-rate, and any non-fan who flipped by the game on TV would definitely pause for a second to take stock of it.

That’s why last night’s match—the second consecutive scoreless draw in an MLS game with playoff implications—was even more disappointing than a scoreless draw usually is. The Seattle fans created a Cup-final-type atmosphere, and they deserved better.

The Don will not have been pleased.

The home fans did get the silver lining of a penalty save from veteran keeper Kasey Keller, who stopped the expert marksman World Cup-confident speedy Robbie Findley from the spot:

Despite the World Cup experience now under his belt, Findley is third on RSL’s depth chart at striker, behind Costa Rican Alvaro Saborio and Argentine Fabian Espindola, the latter of whom who was out injured last night.

RSL was missing two other starters in goalkeeper Nick Rimando and centerback Jamison Olave. Rookie Chris Schuler (out of Creighton) filled in capably for Olave. Seattle was missing right back James Riley and striker Blaise Nkufo.

Beyond Findley’s poorly taken PK, there were not many other solid scoring opportunities.

Seattle now has just one loss in its past nine matches, while RSL has just one defeat in its last 19. Both of these teams are going to the playoffs, count on it, and, despite last night’s goal-free display, both will be tough to beat.

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Ten Days and Counting….

They’ve gotten pep talks from hoops legends Bill Russell and Pete Carril (the only thing that could make Bob Bradley smile like that again would be the U.S. winning the World Cup), met former President Bill Clinton and current one Barack Obama, and played tuneup matches against the Czech Republic and Turkey.

On Monday, they touched down in South Africa, and they’ll face fellow World Cup entrants (and potential second-round opponents) Australia in a final tuneup on Saturday. Their tournament opener against England is 10 days away.

Yes, the U.S. World Cup adventure has a full head of steam.

So how does everyone out there feel about the Yanks’ chances? Confident they will advance out of Group C?

We are currently hovering around a 5.5 on a 1-10 confidence scale, with 10 being ‘no doubt about it.’ That’s up from a 3 before the second half against Turkey this past Saturday.

That first half versus Turkey was pretty dreadful, with the U.S. midfield playing butter to Turkey’s attacking knife. But the Americans perked up in the second half when Jose Torres and—that’s rightRobbie Findley came on.

The Real Salt Lake striker took almost no time at all to show why Bob Bradley included him in the final 23. Six minutes into the second half he tracked back with his trademark blazing speed and killed a Turkey counter—which had been embarrassing the U.S. all game to that point. Seven minutes after that he helped create the Nats’ first goal with a perfectly weighted ball over the top to Landon Donovan.

Yep, it was a convincing performance from Findley, and Torres was even better, coming in and settling down the midfield with his skill on the ball and excellent passing. He hit the post on a free kick and was probably the best player on the field for the U.S. in the second half.

But here’s a question: Do you start either of those guys against England?

Do you throw the inexperienced Findley (four caps, total) out there on the huge stage of a World Cup opener? Do you start the 22-year-old Torres in central midfield against Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard?

A couple other thoughts on the Turkey game: Jay DeMerit is a beast. He was excellent and seems like the one guy on the backline U.S. fans don’t have to worry about.

Jonathan Spector had a terrible game, and probably lost his starting spot to the veteran Steve Cherundolo.

Jonathan Bornstein played for 15 minutes and was skinned on at least two occasions. No way he sees the field in South Africa.

People seem to be penciling Oguchi Onyewu back into the starting XI—do his 45 minutes vs Turkey do the trick?

Give us your thoughts, and your U.S. starting XI vs England, in the comments.

Findley Scores, Ching Plays, in U.S. Camp Sendoff for Both

Robbie Findley scored his first goal of the 2010 season, and Brian Ching played in his first game since injuring his hamstring on April 1, as the former’s Real Salt Lake downed the latter’s Dynamo 3-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium last night.

Both players will join the U.S. national team camp in Princeton, N.J., starting tomorrow.

But the star of the game was RSL’s Costa Rican striker Alvaro Saborio, who scored in the 24th and 60th minutes to bring his season total to four goals in eight matches for RSL.

The defending champs are hitting their stride, winning three straight after a 1-3-1 start, and playing fluid attacking soccer—especially in the first half hour of this game, which ended RSL’s eight-game winless streak against the Dynamo.

Findley, though, despite snapping in a header off a nice chip from Kyle Beckerman in the third minute, just does not look like a World Cup-caliber striker to us. He’s fast, yes, but his touch was clunky last night and he missed at least two chances he should have buried.

Ching came on in the 62nd minute and looked good, working hard, holding the ball and combining well with teammates. He may not be Brian McBride-in-his-prime, but he’s the best target forward in the U.S. pool.

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