Real Salt Lake 2, Portland Timbers 1 | 2017 MLS Match Recap
On a night on which the Portland Timbers could have grabbed sole possession of the Western Conference lead, it was Real Salt Lake who climbed their way back into playoff contention, and made the Western Conference race tighter, with a 2-1 home win at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The first half saw RSL dominate with a 12-6 shot advantage, but its lone goal was scored by Albert Rusnak, hitting a smart shot from 20 yards out in the 14th minute, for his seventh of the year, to give RSL the 1-0 lead. In the 38th minute, Diego Valeri had a prime opportunity to score a goal in his eighth straight match for an MLS record, but his shot was well-blocked by veteran RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando, and Dairon Asprilla sent the rebound wide.
Two minutes into the second half, Valeri headed an Asprilla cross into goal to equalize and write himself into the MLS history books. But 14 minutes later, Jefferson Savarino found enough space in the box to arc a wicked curling shot past Timbers goalkeeper Jeff Attinella for what would be the game winner.
With the win, plus the other results from Saturday night, Real Salt Lake is above the red line in 6th place with 38 points, though both Texas teams are currently also on 38 points having played two less matches than RSL.
- A LESSON IN PHYSICS: While RSL shots might not necessarily be unstoppable forces and Timbers defenders aren't technically immovable objects, Sir Issac Newton might have taken keen interest in this match. RSL had seven of its 19 shots blocked throughout the match, while Portland had just one of its 12 shots meet with similar resistance.
- PUTTING IT ON A PLATA: Joao Plata had his first shot on the Timbers net less than two minutes into the match, and troubled the visitors throughout with a total of eight shots and additional fearsome runs and passes. On one of his final contributions of the night, before being subbed for Brooks Lennon in the 75th minute, he found himself one-on-one with Attinella, but couldn't get enough control on Yura Movsisyan's leading pass to get past the sliding keeper.
- IT'S NOT OVER UNTIL IT'S OVER: Though the match winner came just over a half hour from the final whistle, both teams threatened in the final stages of the game. Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri had two chances to add to his record-setting goal; one came immediately after Savarino's goal via a potential assist to Valeri that split the RSL defenders, and the second came on an 85th minute free kick saved by Rimando. Another Timbers 2nd half free kick, from David Guzman in the 69th minute, skimmed over the RSL wall but just missed the top left corner.