Salt Lake Upset Sounders via PK Shootout, Advance to MLS Cup Semis

Salt Lake's captan Albert Rusnak
Salt Lake's captan Albert Rusnak. Photo by Al Sermeno/ISI/REX/Shutterstock

Real Salt Lake delivered the biggest upset so far in the 2021 MLS Cup playoffs by eliminating the No. 2 seed Seattle Sounders in the first round. The game was decided via penalty-kick shootout after a scoreless regulation and extra time.

Sounders entered the game as overwhelming favorites, and it showed right away. They dominated the first half and didn’t allow a single shot from the opponent. The same continued in the second period, but Real’s defense and goalie David Ochoa showed impressive composure to keep their net intact.

After the regular 90 minutes wrapped up with teams tied, Seattle pushed all their chips upfront and continued the heavy attacks. However, only one of their 10 shots was on goal, which wasn’t enough to change the score. Salt Lake, on the other hand, went both regulation and extra time without registering a single shot.

Both teams were coolheaded to start the shootout, making each of their first five penalties. In the sixth series, Ochoa came through once again and saved the shot from attacking midfielder Kelyn Rowe. Real’s defender Justen Glad stepped up to take the deciding penalty and managed to get it in despite Sounders’ goalie Stefan Frei getting a hand on the ball.

Salt Lake, who entered the playoffs as a seventh seed, will face Sporting Kansas City in the Western Conference semifinals. The remainder of MLS semifinal matchups is in place as well, with Colorado Rapids facing the Portland Timbers, New England Revolution playing NYCFC, and Nashville FC going up against Philadelphia Union.