SANDY — And just like that, the walls of the fortress at Rio Tinto Stadium collapsed.
A gaping hole blown open by a blistering right-footed cannon ball from the foot of Seattle midfielder Mario Martinez in the 81st minute.
Martinez’s spectacular shot, which came against the run of play, lifted the Sounders to a 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake and gave the Washington side their first-ever playoff series win.
Seattle claimed the two-leg, aggregate goals series 1-0 after claiming the only goal of the 180 minutes of the series.
For large swaths of the match, it seemed just a matter of time before the home side would surge into the lead as the Real attack poked and prodded a Seattle defense that had a though-out plan for the match.
The Sounders backline, however, didn’t break as it held RSL scoreless for the fourth consecutive match.
Seattle, obviously wary of the full-strength attacking ability of Salt Lake, went conservative defensively early and didn’t back away from it, collapsing strongly on the ball and picking-and-choosing their attacks in direct fashion.
Real finished with 14 shots, with Costa Rican striker Alvaro Saborio accounting for four of those. Several of Saborio’s chances were just a bounce here or a tap there from finding their way past Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning.
At the end, however, the only shot that mattered was Martinez’s match-winner.
Seattle’s Brad Evans claimed the ball near midfield and made a run up the right flank, swinging the ball across the top of the box to Fredy Montero, who tapped it out wide on the left flank to Martinez, whose shot roared across the goalmouth from 18 yards out and buried itself in the back of the net.
Following the goal, Real went into emergency attack mode switching out two defenders to get the attack forward and try and claim the equalizer, but it was to no avail as the clock ran out of RSL’s season.
Seattle, on the other hand, advances to take on the Los Angeles Galaxy in the Western Conference final, which will begin on Sunday at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
Salt Lake and Seattle ultimately played five times during the 2012 season with just one goal scored for each team and three scoreless draws, including the series’ first leg on Friday.
• D.C. UNITED 1, RED BULLS 0: At Harrison, N.J., Nick DeLeon scored in the 88th minute and D.C. United advanced to the Eastern Conference final with a 1-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls on Thursday night.
United advanced 2-1 on aggregate after playing New York to a 1-1 draw Saturday and faces the Houston Dynamo in the conference final.
In a game that was postponed a day after a Nor’easter blanketed the field with snow Wednesday night, the Red Bulls appeared poised to take the lead in the 69th minute when they were awarded a penalty kick as D.C. United goalie Bill Hamid was given a red card.