SANDY, Utah – Real Salt Lake (West #2) started the Western Conference Championship series on the right foot on Sunday night, beating the Portland Timbers (West #1) 4-2 at Rio Tinto Stadium to take a two-goal advantage into the series’ decisive second leg.
The Claret-and-Cobalt will now have two weeks off before playing the second leg at Portland on Sunday, Nov. 24. The winner of the RSL-Portland Western Conference Championship will advance to MLS Cup 2013, which will be played on Saturday, Dec. 7 against the winner of the Houston Dynamo-Sporting Kansas City Eastern Conference Championship series.
Portland took the early advantage in Sunday’s match, getting a free kick goal from former RSL MF Will Johnson in the 14th minute to go up 1-0. RSL hit back with a vengeance, getting goals from DF Chris Schuler, FW Robbie Findley and FW Devon Sandoval in the 35th, 41st and 48th minutes to take a 3-1 lead. Real Salt Lake MF Javier Morales made it 4-1 to the Claret-and-Cobalt in the 82nd before Portland FW Frederic Piquionnne pulled one back for the Timbers deep into second half stoppage time to make it 4-2.
Johnson gave Portland the lead in the 14th. RSL DF Chris Wingert fouled Timbers MF Diego Valeri outside the box on the right side, giving Johnson a dangerous set piece opportunity. The Timbers captain took full advantage, hitting a dipping, 25-yarder past RSL GK Nick Rimando and into the lower-right corner to silence the Rio Tinto Stadium crowd. Wingert injured his ribs on the foul that led to the free kick and had to be subbed out of the match in the 33rd minute.
RSL created a couple of half chances soon after Johnson’s goal before eventually finding the equalizer in the 35th minute through Schuler. Morales curled a corner kick in from the right side, with Schuler rising above Portland DF Futty Danso in the center of the area before tucking his eight-yard header inside the right post to make it 1-1. The goal marked the second time in as many games that Schuler – who had two goals in his career prior to last Thursday’s win over the LA Galaxy – finished a Morales set piece for an RSL goal.
Portland nearly put one into their own net three minutes after Schuler’s equalizer. Morales curled another corner in from the right side, again finding Schuler in the center of the box. Schuler’s header deflected off of Portland DF Pa Modou Kah in the middle of the area, bouncing toward goal and forcing Valeri to clear it off the line.
RSL had another great look in the 39th. Captain Kyle Beckerman collected a through ball on the left side, chipping a cross toward DF Nat Borchers at the back post. Borchers got on the end of it at the top-right corner of the six, bouncing a header on goal that Timbers GK Donovan Ricketts pawed away. Borchers had a second bite at the apple, but couldn’t keep the rebound on frame, side-volleying the chance over the bar from close-range.
Findley put RSL on top in the 41st minute, taking advantage of a Portland error to make it 2-1. Beckerman started the play, hitting a long ball over the top of the Timbers defense just right of center. Danso looked like he had things under control, but he misplayed his back pass to Ricketts and Findley – pressuring hard – made him pay, sneaking around the center back and collecting the ball just outside the area before taking a touch and slotting his 15-yarder past the onrushing Ricketts and inside the right post.
RSL kept the pressure on at the start of the second half, with Sandoval finishing off a lightning-quick counterattack in the 48th to put the Claret-and-Cobalt up 3-1. MF Sebastian Velasquez started the play, intercepting a Portland pass on the left side of RSL’s half before finding MF Luis Gil on the touchline. Gil played a first-time ball inside to Morales, allowing the Argentine maestro to take a touch into space before playing a gorgeous through ball to Findley on the right flank. Findley ran onto the pass and hit a low cross into the box, finding Sandoval at the top of the six. The rookie striker did the rest, taking a touch away from goal before firing a low-right footer past Ricketts and into the left side of the net.
Real Salt Lake continued attacking after Sandoval’s goal, registering chances in the 52nd and 57th minutes before getting robbed of a fourth goal by a tremendous Ricketts save in the 81st. Morales clipped a ball in from the left side to Gil just inside the penalty spot, with the 19-year-old flicking a majestic header toward the back post that Ricketts pushed around the far post with a diving stop.
RSL punished Portland on the ensuing corner kick, with Morales heading home to make it 4-1. Substitute FW Joao Plata curled in a corner from the right side, with Morales – RSL’s normal corner kick taker – powering a header from the top-right of the six past Ricketts and a Portland player stationed at the near post to give RSL a three-goal advantage.
Portland pulled one back in the final minute of stoppage time. DF Jack Jewsbury hit an early cross in from the right wing, picking out Piquionne at the back post. The veteran striker rose above a pair of RSL defenders and headed home inside the far post from 10 yards out.
RSL and Portland will play the series’ decisive second leg in two weeks on Sunday, Nov. 24 at JELD-WEN Field. The match will be broadcast live on nationally ESPN and ESPN Deportes and locally on ESPN 700 AM and 102.3 La Gran D FM/1600 AM.
Real Salt Lake Match Notes – RSL 4-2 POR
- Tonight’s match was the first Sunday home game in Real Salt Lake’s nine-year, 351-game history. Despite the unique nature of hosting a Sunday game in Utah and only having three days’ notice between tonight’s match and Thursday’s Western Conference Semifinal second leg against the LA Galaxy, RSL drew a solid crowd of 17,333 to Rio Tinto Stadium.
- Tonight’s match was the first playoff meeting between Real Salt Lake and Portland Timbers and fifth meeting between the sides in all competitions this calendar year. RSL is now 3-0-2 against Portland in all competitions this year, winning all three of its home matches against Portland and drawing both matches at JELD-WEN Field.
- Real Salt Lake is unbeaten in its last nine matches across all competitions against Portland Timbers. RSL is 6-1-3 all-time against the Oregon side, with the Claret-and-Cobalt’s lone loss against the Timbers coming in the first-ever meeting between the sides at JELD-WEN Field on April 30, 2011.
- With tonight’s win, Real Salt Lake ended Portland’s 10-game unbeaten streak across all competitions. Portland’s last two losses have been against RSL, with the Claret-and-Cobalt beating the Timbers 4-2 at Rio Tinto Stadium on Aug. 30 just prior to the start of the Cascadia club’s 10-game unbeaten run.
- Real Salt Lake will travel to Portland to face the Timbers at JELD-WEN Field in the second leg of the Western Conference Championship on Nov. 24 at 7:00 p.m. MT. MLS will take a two-week break to observe the upcoming FIFA international window. RSL’s U.S. internationals, GK Nick Rimando and Captain Kyle Beckerman, are not expected to be called up to the USMNT for its friendlies against Scotland and Austria.
- RSL has had a very diverse attack against Portland this year, with nine different players scoring and seven different players assisting in the Utah side’s five matches against the Timbers. RSL MF Javier Morales leads the way for RSL with three goals, followed by FW Alvaro Saborio with two goals, while FW Robbie Findley, FW Devon Sandoval, MF Luis Gil, DF Chris Schuler, DF Nat Borchers and MF Cole Grossman all have one tally against the Cascadia club. Captain Kyle Beckerman, Morales and FW Joao Plata lead the way for RSL with three assists each against the Timbers; Gil, Findley, Saborio and MF Ned Grabavoy all have one assist against Portland.
- The last time Real Salt Lake scored four goals was against Portland Timbers on Aug. 30 at Rio Tinto Stadium. Prior to Thursday’s 2-0 win over LA Galaxy, RSL had scored only four goals in its last eight games across all competitions since Sept. 1, suffering five shutouts and recording only one multi-goal game in that span.
- Real Salt Lake MF Javier Morales continued his success against Portland tonight, recording one goal and two assists to give him three goals and three assists in four games played in all competitions against Portland this year. Morales now has one goal and three assists in the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs.
- Chris Schuler’s goal in the 35th minute marked his second goal of the playoffs. Schuler scored his first goal of 2013 in RSL’s 2-0 win over LA Galaxy on Thursday. Prior to Thursday’s match, Schuler only had two career MLS goals.
- With his goal tonight, RSL FW Robbie Findley now has five career goals in MLS Cup Playoff action. He remains Real Salt Lake’s all-time leading scorer in the postseason.
- Real Salt Lake was without leading scorer FW Alvaro Saborio tonight. Saborio suffered a right hip flexor strain in the second period of extra time in Thursday’s win over LA and was ruled out of Sunday’s match by RSL Head Coach Jason Kreis on Saturday.
- Starting tonight in place of the injured Saborio, rookie FW Devon Sandoval recorded his first career playoff goal and seventh goal of the year in MLS regular season, MLS Cup Playoff and Open Cup action. Prior to tonight, Sandoval last started in RSL’s 1-0 win at Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Sept. 28, scoring the match’s lone goal in the ninth minute of play.
- RSL MF Sebastian Velasquez earned his second consecutive start for RSL tonight. Velasquez scored his first career goal in Thursday’s win over LA Galaxy at Rio Tinto Stadium.
- RSL MF Ned Grabavoy returned to the 18 tonight after being sidelined in Thursday’s match against LA with a left hamstring strain initially suffered at LA on Nov. 3. The midfielder subbed on for Javier Morales in the 86th minute. The 30-year-old Grabavoy had a career year in 2013, scoring five goals and tallying five assists in 32 appearances – 29 of which were starts – for the Claret-and-Cobalt.
- RSL DF Chris Wingert suffered a rib injury while making a tackle on Portland’s Diego Valeri in the 13th minute. He was subbed out due to the injury in the 33rd minute.
- With tonight’s full shifts, Real Salt Lake Captain Kyle Beckerman and GK Nick Rimando have played all 1,620 minutes in RSL’s 17-game playoff history.
REAL SALT LAKE 4–2 PORTLAND TIMBERS
SUNDAY, NOV. 10, 2013
RIO TINTO STADIUM
Goals by Period 1 2 F
Real Salt Lake 2 2 4
Portland Timbers 1 1 2
POR – Will Johnson – 14’
RSL – Chris Schuler (Javier Morales) – 35’
RSL – Robbie Findley – 41’
RSL – Devon Sandoval (Robbie Findley, Javier Morales) – 48’
RSL – Javier Morales (Joao Plata) – 82’
POR – Frederic Piquionne (Jack Jewsbury) – 94’
POR – Jose Adolfo Valencia (Yellow; Foul) – 90’
Real Salt Lake (4-1-2-1-2): Nick Rimando; Chris Wingert (Lovel Palmer, 33’), Chris Schuler, Nat Borchers, Tony Beltran; Kyle Beckerman (C), Luis Gil, Sebastian Velasquez, Javier Morales (Ned Grabavoy, 86’), Robbie Findley (Joao Plata, 66’), Devon Sandoval
Substitutes not used: Jeff Attinella, Cole Grossman, Khari Stephenson, Olmes Garcia,
Portland Timbers (4-3-3): Donovan Ricketts; Jack Jewsbury, Mamadou Danso, Pa Madou Kah, Michael Harrington; Diego Chara, Will Johnson, Diego Valeri (Kalif Alhassan, 53’), Darlington Nagbe, Ryan Johnson (Jose Adolfo Valencia, 59’), Rodney Wallace (Frederic Piquionne, 75’)
Substitutes not used: Milos Kocic, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Ben Zemanski, Sal Zizzo
Referee: Armando Villarreal
Assistant Referees: George Gansner, Frank Anderson
4th Official: Baldomero Toledo
Weather: Clear and 47 degrees