Major League Soccer
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           === Sounders begin quest for first MLS Cup against RSL ===
 Seattle,  WA (Sports Network) - Seattle Sounders FC, which has three U.S. Open
 Cup  titles  in its trophy cabinet,  will begin its  quest for a first MLS Cup
 title on Friday when it welcomes Real Salt Lake to CenturyLink Field.
 Since  joining Major League Soccer in 2009, Seattle has developed a reputation
 for aesthetically pleasing attacking football.
 But  the 2012 edition of the Emerald City club can be more aptly characterized
 by  defensive stability.  The Sounders enter the playoffs having conceded just
 33 goals in the regular season, second-fewest in the league.
 "It's  been  great,"  Sounders  defender  Jeff  Parke  told  in
 assessing  the team's  performance this  year. "Maybe  we didn't  get as  many
 points  as we  did last year, but the  group has been harder to break down and
 we've  made  it harder for  teams to  play against us.  It's a more mature and
 diverse group."
 At the heart of the defensive surge has been goalkeeper Michael Gspurning, who
 was  acquired  at the beginning  of the season.  The Austrian became the first
 player  from  outside the CONCACAF region  to lead the league in goals against
 average  as his  mark of  0.73  goals against  is the  third-lowest in  league
 "He  puts himself in  good spots and when he needs to make big saves he does,"
 Sounders  defender Marc Burch said. "He's done a great job. The goals he's let
 in  haven't  been his  fault.  He's  a  great  goalie, he  communicates  well,
 organizes  in the  back and everybody fights  for him as well as he fights for
 us.  He knows  we make the plays we can  in front of him and when we don't, he
 makes plays for us."
 Real Salt Lake makes the venture to Seattle on the back of a scoreless regular
 season  finale  against Vancouver Whitecaps  FC, the third successive 0-0 draw
 for Salt Lake across all competitions.
 "I  am  going to  take the  'glass half-full' approach,  for sure," head coach
 Jason  Kreis said of  his team's failure to score in three games. "Because for
 me,  just a  little thing here or there  is better, and if we don't have three
 ties in our last matches, we have three wins.
 "Literally,  I think that is just six inches this way or that way with some of
 the passes, or the final touches, or somebody just calms down to make a little
 bit  better decision  when on the attacking third, then were talking about all
 these  wins we stacked up. But I also think that it can be a positive thing to
 have a little disappointment in our minds heading into the playoffs to give us
 a little bit of an extra edge."
 Real Salt Lake and Seattle met in the first round of last year's playoffs with
 the  Claret  and Cobalt picking  up a  3-0 win over  the Sounders at Rio Tinto
 The  scheduling  of  this  season's  home-and-away  affair  is  reversed,  and
 midfielder  Will  Johnson believes that Seattle  will provide a tough tie over
 both legs.
 "I'm  not  sure there  is a  perfect scenario,"  he told "These
 games change so much, a goal here or there changes every game. Just as long as
 we stay together, execute our tactics, that will be the perfect game."
 11/01 14:01:29 ET

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