Real Salt Lake 0, Portland Timbers 1 | MLS Match Recap
SANDY, Utah – In a battle between two teams fighting for an Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs spot, it was the Portland Timbers who came out on top thanks to a major defensive error from Real Salt Lake.
The Timbers picked up a pivotal 1-0 victory over their Western Conference rivals, all but ending RSL’s postseason hopes. A red card and a Fanendo Adi penalty kick, controversially awarded when Jamison Olave took down Lucas Melano at the edge of the penalty area in the second half, was the difference in securing the three points.
The Timbers now move above the red line, tied with the fifth-place Seattle Sounders on 47 points from 32 games, three points clear of the San Jose Earthquakes and six ahead of RSL and the Houston Dynamo.
The Timbers played a very high line of pressure from the opening kick and frustrated RSL in possession, also producing their fair share of chances on the counterattack throughout the first half.
Seven minutes into the second half, the game completely changed. Timbers forward Melano got in behind RSL’s back line. Olave could not quite catch him and eventually was whistled for a foul right at the edge of the 18-yard box. Referee Juan Guzman consulted with his assistant and awarded a penalty kick to Portland and a red card to Olave, his third ejection of the season.
Timbers forward Adi stepped to the spot and slipped a low shot past Nick Rimando.
RSL head coach Jeff Cassar brought on attack-minded subs and left only three defenders in the back, searching for at least an equalizer to extend the team’s postseason hopes.
RSL had a couple of chances to pull level, and they both came at the feet of midfielder Javier Morales. In the 69th minute, Juan Manuel Martinez sent a cross toward the top of the box where Morales was able to volley a magnificent, dipping shot towards goal. Timbers goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey just got a hand to it and sent it over the bar.
Morales again nearly found the equalizer in the first minute of stoppage time after Justen Glad fed him the ball in the box. The veteran midfielder got a shot off that was deflected, and Kwarasey made a superb reaction save to preserve the victory.
One last-ditch cross from Martinez in the final minute of the game was smothered yet again by Kwarasey, buoying Portland’s playoff hopes and leaving RSL’s streak of seven straight postseason appearances in serious jeopardy.