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Seattle Sounders FC advance to Western Conference Championship for first time

Seattle Sounders FC advanced to the Western Conference Championship for the first time in the franchise
Seattle Sounders FC advanced to the Western Conference Championship for the first time in the franchise's history with a 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake Thursday. The Sounders will play the LA Galaxy in a two-game series, starting Nov. 11.
— image credit: Casey Olson/The Mirror

Courtesy SoundersFC.com

SANDY, Utah - Sounders FC advanced to the Western Conference Championship for the first time in franchise history with a 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake in the second leg of the Western Conference Semifinal at Rio Tinto Stadium. Mario Martinez scored the game's lone goal, giving Seattle a 1-0 aggregate win after a scoreless draw in the first leg.

The Rave Green will face the LA Galaxy in a two-game aggregate series for the Western Conference Championship, with the first leg in Los Angeles on Nov. 11 and the second in Seattle on Nov. 18. Tickets for the second leg are now on sale through SoundersFC.com or by calling 800-745-3000.

After 80 minutes of scoreless play, Martinez put the away side up with his first-ever goal for Sounders FC. Brad Evans made a run into the RSL final third and laid the ball off to Fredy Montero at the top of the box. Montero chipped a pass over an RSL defender to Martinez on the left side of the box, and the Honduran one-timed a low blast inside the far post to break up the scoreless tie.

It was just the fourth playoff goal in franchise history, and also ended a 390-minute scoreless drought between Seattle and Salt Lake.

Sounders FC goalkeeper Michael Gspurning made nine saves — topping his season-high — en route to the shutout. The Austrian has now recorded a clean sheet in his first two career MLS playoff games. In the 68th minute, he came off his line to break up a Fabian Espindola breakaway, and in the 76th he dove to smother an Alvaro Saborio shot from outside the box. With RSL pressing late, the 6-foot-5 netminder withstood the barrage of crosses and corner kicks, most notably rising and swatting a Saborio header over the crossbar in the 90th minute.

Martinez — acquired on loan from Real Espana on Aug. 1 — performed well in place of injured captain Mauro Rosales. The 23-year-old nearly scored in the 31st minute when he bent a free kick around the wall and hit the crossbar.

Seattle advances in the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time in the club's four-year history, and the result marks the second ever playoff win. The game ends what was a five-game series between Sounders FC and RSL in 2012. Between regular season and playoffs, the teams finished tied at 1-1-3, with just one goal scored by either team.

Scoring Summary:

SEA - Mario Martinez (Fredy Montero, Brad Evans) 81'

Seattle Sounders FC - Michael Gspurning, Adam Johansson, Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Marc Burch, Christian Tiffert (Andy Rose 73), Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Mario Martinez (Zach Scott 87), Fredy Montero (David Estrada 89), Eddie Johnson.

Real Salt Lake - Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran (Luis Gil 85), Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, Kenny Mansally (Jonny Steele 86), Ned Grabavoy, Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Will Johnson, Paulo Junior (Fabian Espindola 58), Alvaro Saborio.

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