Real Salt Lake Fells Timbers to Remain Unbeaten

Do you remember April 30, 2011?  No?  Well, when it comes to the history of the rivalry between Real Salt Lake and the Portland Timbers, that date was the last occasion Portland was able to celebrate a victory.  In the interim, the Claret-and-Cobalttook seven wins and three draws from Portland.  That stretch included a sweep in the 2013 MLS Western Conference Final(going 4-0-2 for the year) and logging (pun intended) a few stunning comebacks.

And now it’s time to add another win to the proverbial pile.

With a 1-0 victory over Portland at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night, RSL improved to 3-0-4 on the season and now finds itself tied with Seattle for second in the league table behind FC Dallas.

And who does RSL have to thank for the win?  Ned Grabavoynetted the game’s only goal with a far-post blast just out of the reach of Donovan Ricketts, while Nick Rimando preserved allthree points with four world-class saves.

The home side went on the attack early, earning a corner kick just seconds into the game.  But in spite of RSL’s success in the first fifteen minutes at maintaining possession and successfully moving the ball into the attacking third, the team was unable to generate any significant scoring chances outside of a 2nd-minutevolley from Javier Morales at an extremely tight angle that forced Ricketts into a near-post save.

The roles were reversed in the latter portion of the first half, although the script remained largely the same: Portland maintained possession, but with limited scoring opportunities.  The Timbers’ Darlington Nagbe provided a moment of excitement in the 19th minute when he rounded the RSL defense and entered the box, but his shot from the top of the six-yard box was tipped over the crossbar by Rimando.

Portland almost took the lead early in the second half when Maximiliano Urruti’s blast from 18 yards rang off the crossbarin the 60th minute.  Moments later, a floated cross from DiegoValeri found Urruti at the top of the six, but Urruti was unable to control the ball out of the air, and it bounced harmlessly over the end line.  Urruti had one more chance—again, only seconds later—when an RSL turnover led to a Portland break, but Urruti’sshot sailed wide of Rimando’s net.

The game ultimately turned around in the 65th minute, when Real Salt Lake gained and maintained dangerous possession in Portland’s half of the field for almost 15 minutes.  Under a heavy RSL attack, Portland was forced to clear the ball on numerous possessions to relieve pressure until the 78th minute, when Ned Grabavoy’s open run to the top of the box freed him for the shot that would ultimately provide the difference between the two sides.

The game still had a few more fireworks.  Portland’s AlvasPowell got behind the RSL defense in the 85th minute and almost managed to steer a low shot past Rimando, but the RSL ‘keeper managed a successful kick save.  Portland’s last qualitychance of the game came on Gaston Fernandez’s shot from 18 yards, but Rimando once again managed a highlight-reel save, springing to his right to tip the shot over the bar.

RSL now turns its attention to another Cascadia opponent as it welcomes the Vancouver Whitecaps to Rio Tinto Stadium next Saturday.

Wrap-Up

• A lot has been made of Portland’s rough start to this season, and, honestly, I don’t know why they haven’t been able to work out a win.  In some games, defense has been the issue (e.g., the Sounders game); in others, goal scoring has been a problem (four goals scored in six matches, not including the Sounders game); and in others, opposition goalkeeping has denied golden opportunities (look no further than NickRimando).  The Timbers certainly seem poised to break through soon, but the team’s early-season struggles have been a puzzler.
• Ned Grabavoy’s goal was his first of the season.  Ned had a breakout year on offense last season, notching five goals and five assists.  Last year’s production was a bit of an outlier for Ned compared to past seasons, but it would be great to see him replicate even a part of it.
• I’m going to say up front that I am an unabashed Will Johnson fanboy.  I loved his hard work and energy when he was at RSL, and he’s still part of the RSL Family even if he now wears green.  So it was a little rough seeing him so frustrated after Portland’s loss to Real Salt Lake.  He didn’t mince words in his postgame interviews.  Regarding the performance, Johnson said of the Timbers, “We get in those big moments, we look like amateurs.”
• I would like to take a moment to remind you once more that Nick Rimando has never appeared in the MLS Best XI or been named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.  I find it amazing that a guy can be that good for so long and still get snubbed like Nick has been.  Maybe this year will be his year.  But having said that, here is my prediction from Saturday night:

Prove me wrong, MLS.

• There were a few excellent banners at Rio Tinto Stadiumon Saturday.  First, this clever little piece mocking the Timbers’ style of play:

​One that’s self-explanatory:

​A well-placed banner directly below the Portland Timbers’ visitor section:

​And my personal favorite, this banner commemorating the Hillsborough tragedy.  The “P.D.” on the banner is for RSL assistant Paul Dalglish.  Dalglish attended the Liverpool-Nottingham Forest match in 1989 in which 96 soccer fans perished.  Dalglish was only 12 at the time, and his father, Kenny, was Liverpool’s manager at the match:

Heath Waddingham

About Heath Waddingham

SLC-raised and BYU-educated. RSLTID.

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