Salt Lake has a reputation for possessing a stingy defense. In recent matches, it also has found ways to beat teams on offense, too.
"We're punishing teams when we get our chances," RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman said. "When you score and you change the game, a team can't come in here and sit back. They got to come out now."
Seattle learned that lesson first hand. Beckerman scored a goal right before halftime and Robbie Findley added another immediately after it to lift Salt Lake to a 2-0 victory over the Sounders on Saturday night.
The win vaulted RSL (9-5-3) into first place into the Western Conference. Seattle (6-5-3) lost for just the second time in its past nine MLS matches.
Salt Lake has scored two or more goals in five consecutive matches and has 27 goals in its last 10 games across all competitions, registering eight wins during that stretch.
Beckerman put Salt Lake on the board in the 41st minute, scoring on a deflected free kick by Javier Morales. The ball bounced off a defender and took a hop out to Beckerman on the right side of the box. He cleaned it up perfectly, sliding a half-volley under to the crossbar.
Seattle had no shots on goal and did not create a single shot period during the first half.
"This is our first shutout in a few games," RSL defender Nat Borchers said. "We put that on the bulletin board and really made that a point to get that tonight."
It only took 40 seconds of the second half for Findley to close the door on the Sounders, giving RSL a two-goal lead in the 46th minute on a second-chance goal after his initial shot was saved.
Findley tracked down a deep pass from Morales and fired a right-footer just outside the 6-yard box. Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning cleared the ball out to Khari Stephenson, who flicked ahead to Findley again. He launched another shot just outside the right upper corner of the box. This time, he threaded the ball inside the left post.
"We talk about being a consistent team and competing with the best teams in the league," Seattle forward Eddie Johnson said. "We can't come out and give up a goal 40 seconds into the half. There's too much experience on this team. There's no excuses."
The Sounders struggled to mount a comeback because they could do hardly anything against RSL's stiff defense. They did not create their first shot of the game until Mario Martinez curled the ball from the right side of the box at Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando in the 73rd minute.
Seattle finished the match with a total of two shots. RSL tallied 17 shots, putting six on the net.
More concerning than the lack of shots for Seattle coach Sigi Schmid was that the Sounders mentally packed it in after Findley's goal.
"Goals change games," Schmid said. "From that point on in the second half, I thought they pretty much dominated us. At that point, I didn't think we made smart decisions or played well. And they were the better team for sure."
RSL coach Jason Kreis cautioned his players against letting their rise to the top the Western Conference go to their heads.
"Young players need to be concerned with one thing: getting better every day and giving their best in training sessions," Kreis said. "They don't need to concern themselves with how many points this team has at all. If they're doing that, they're certainly not going to be in the right mindset to further their game."