PORTLAND – Real Salt Lake (15-10-8, 53 points, West #2) clinched its sixth-straight MLS Cup Playoff berth on Saturday night, tying the Portland Timbers (13-5-15, 54 points, West #1) 0-0 at JELD-WEN Field to lock up a spot in the postseason.
Real Salt Lake can still finish anywhere from first to fifth in the tightly-packed Western Conference. The Claret-and-Cobalt’s six-year run of postseason qualification is the longest active streak in the league and tied for the second-longest such streak in MLS history with the New York Red Bulls (2003-2008), trailing only the New England Revolution’s eight-year run (2002-2009).
While it ended scoreless, Saturday’s match was an up-and-down affair, with both teams playing high-quality soccer in front of a raucous Portland crowd. RSL GK Nick Rimando came up huge throughout, making several tremendous saves to help the Claret-and-Cobalt earn a point.
Portland had the match’s first opportunity in the 28th minute. The play started with an RSL attack, with Captain Kyle Beckerman lobbing a long ball over the top to FW Robbie Findley. Findley got behind the Timbers defense, but Portland GK Donovan Ricketts came out of the area to field the ball, taking a touch and curling a long pass down the right wing for FW Jose Adolfo Valencia. The Colombian attacker smacked a low cross into the middle, with MF Diego Valeri running onto it at the back post and hitting his 10-yard shot over the bar.
The Timbers had an incredible chance in the 43rd minute. Valencia collected a ball on the right flank, magnificently weaving his way past several RSL defenders before hitting a ball across the face of goal from the right edge of the six. Thankfully for RSL, Portland FW Kalif Alhassan couldn’t quite connect for what would’ve been a tap-in goal at the back post, the chance ending with the pass rolling out for a goal kick.
Rimando made his first huge save in the 65th minute. RSL DF Chris Wingert and Valencia collided on the left side, clearing room for Timbers DF Jack Jewsbury to collect a ball and carry into space. Jewsbury quickly whipped a low cross into the middle, with the ball deflecting off of several players at the top of the six before falling to an open Alhassan on the right side. Rimando stoned Alhassan’s ensuing eight-yard shot, reaching behind his body to paw the ball away from the goal line and preserve the shutout.
Rimando came up big again in the fourth minute of stoppage time. Former RSL MF and current Timbers Captain Will Johnson laced a 20-yard free kick on goal, forcing Rimando into a brilliant reaction save. Rimando’s work wasn’t done with Johnson’s effort, however, with the veteran ‘keeper using his cat-like reflexes to swat away a Portland player’s follow-up header.
Saturday’s result keeps Real Salt Lake in second-place in the Western Conference, one point behind Portland in the Conference table. The Claret-and-Cobalt and the Timbers will both play Chivas USA in their final match, with RSL hosting the Southern California side at 7:00 p.m. MT at Rio Tinto Stadium on Wednesday and Portland traveling to take on the Goats at the Home Depot Center on Saturday.
RSL is now tied for third-place in the race for the Supporters’ Shield, trailing league leaders Sporting Kansas City (55 points) and Portland (54 points) and sitting in a tie with the New York Red Bulls, who play on Sunday at the Houston Dynamo.
A limited amount of tickets are still available for Wednesday’s RSL-Chivas USA contest and can be purchased at the Rio Tinto Stadium box office, online at www.RealSaltLake.com/Tickets or over the phone at 801-727-2700.
Real Salt Lake Match Notes – RSL 0-0 POR
- With a draw at JELD-WEN Field, Real Salt Lake has clinched a playoff berth for the sixth-consecutive year, the second-longest such streak in MLS history. RSL currently sits in second-place in the Western Conference with 53 points, one point behind first-place Portland Timbers. With the final MLS regular season matches pitting the LA Galaxy against San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders FC, there is no mathematical way for all three teams to catch RSL.
- In the Supporters’ Shield race, RSL is currently tied with the New York Red Bulls for third-place, both clubs with 53 points. Sporting Kansas City jumped into first-place with a total of 55 points with its win over D.C. United on Friday.
- Tonight’s match was the third MLS regular season meeting between Real Salt Lake and the Portland Timbers. RSL is now 1-0-2 against Portland in regular season play and 2-0-2 against the Timbers across all competitions this year. RSL drew the Timbers 3-3 on Aug. 21 at Jeld-Wen Field and then won 4-2 on Aug. 30 at Rio Tinto Stadium. The teams also played in the U.S. Open Cup semifinal on Aug. 7 at Rio Tinto Stadium, a 2-1 RSL victory.
- Real Salt Lake and the Portland Timbers have now met in eight league meetings all-time, with the Claret-and-Cobalt posting a 4-1-3 record against the Cascadia club. In all MLS league meetings between the clubs, the Timbers have only won once—a 1-0 win in the first encounter between the clubs, April 30, 2011 in Portland. The Portland Timbers are now unbeaten in 17 straight conference games at JELD-WEN Field (11-0-6) dating back to 2012, including a 9-0-3 mark in 2013.
- RSL now owns 22 of its 53 points this season courtesy a 6-7-4 road record through 17 away games, matching the club’s 6-7-4 (22 point) mark on the road in MLS play last year which set a new club record for road points.
- Tonight’s match in Portland marked RSL GK Nick Rimando’s 200th career MLS regular-season appearance for the Claret-and-Cobalt. He is the first RSL player to reach the bicentennial mark in the club’s nine MLS seasons.
- RSL DF Chris Schuler made his third-consecutive league start after a nearly five-month layoff because of injury, partnering with Nat Borchers in central defense. RSL is now 1-0-2 with Schuler in the lineup since his return.
- Tonight’s match marked the return of three RSL players from international duty: MF Kyle Beckerman (U.S.), GK Nick Rimando (U.S.) and FW Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica). Beckerman played 90 minutes for the U.S. in its 3-2 win at Panama on Tuesday while Saborio came off the bench early in the second half and scored a goal in Costa Rica’s 2-1 win over Mexico on the same night.
- RSL playmaker Javier Morales was missing from tonight’s lineup due to suspension from yellow card accumulation.
- Tonight’s match was RSL’s first MLS action following a two-week layoff from game play, after the 1-1 draw vs. FC Dallas on Oct. 5. Real Salt Lake has yet to record a win since the Claret-and-Cobalt’s 1-0 win over Vancouver at BC Place on Sept. 28. RSL will finish off the MLS regular season on Wed. Oct. 23 when it hosts Chivas USA in its home finale at Rio Tinto Stadium.
- Tonight’s result was Real Salt Lake’s first scoreless draw of 2013.
REAL SALT LAKE 0–0 PORTLAND TIMBERS
SATURDAY, OCT. 19, 2013
Goals by Period 1 2 F
Real Salt Lake 0 0 0
Portland Timbers 0 0 0
RSL - Yordany Alvarez (Yellow; Dissent) – 74’
POR – Diego Chara (Yellow; Foul) – 85’
Real Salt Lake (4-1-2-1-2): Nick Rimando; Lovel Palmer, Chris Schuler, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert; Yordany Alvarez; Ned Grabavoy, Kyle Beckerman (C); Luis Gil; Alvaro Saborio, Robbie Findley (Joao Plata, 72’)
Substitutes not used: Jeff Attinella, Tony Beltran, Carlos Salcedo, Cole Grossman, Khari Stephenson, Devon Sandoval
Portland Timbers (4-3-3): Donovan Rickets; Jack Jewsbury, Mamadou Danso, Pa Modou Kah, Michael Harrington; Diego Chara, Diego Valeri (Rodney Wallace, 64’), Will Johnson; Kalif Alhassan (Sal Zizzo, 88’); Jose Valencia (Frederic Piquionne, 68’), Darlington Nagbe
Substitutes not used: Milos Kocic, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Ben Zemanski, Ryan Johnson
Referee: Kevin Stott
Assistant Referees: Adam Wienckowski, Brian Poeschel
4th Official: Drew Fischer
Weather: Clear and 55 degrees