RSL 3 : 0 Portland
by Kali Korbis
Real Salt Lake got back to its winning ways on Saturday, defeating the Portland Timbers 3-0 in front of a crowd of 16,444 at Rio Tinto Stadium. Alvaro Saborio scored a hat trick as RSL unleashed a second-half onslaught onto a struggling Portland side.
Timbers coach John Spencer left Kris Boyd out of the starting eleven, electing to go with Danny Mwanga and Darlington Nagbe up front.
Meanwhile, RSL coach Jason Kreis opted to start Paulo Junior in place of the suspended Fabian Espindola, while Jamison Olave, Ned Grabavoy, and Tony Beltran returned to the starting lineup after recovering sufficiently from their injuries.
RSL pressed early down the left flank, finding some opportunities among a Portland defense that was adjusting to some new faces, including new signing Kosuke Kimura.
Portland earned its first corner kick of the match in the 13th minute, but Steven Smith’s low corner failed to clear the Real defense. His subsequent second attempt was cleared away, giving RSL the opportunity to set up in the back once again.
One of Real’s best chances of the first half came during the 18th minute, when Alvaro Saborio’s shot just in front of goal was blocked. However, Paulo Junior was unable to get a subsequent shot on goal. Just after that opportunity, Ned Grabavoy sustained an injury on a tough tackle and went down momentarily, but was able to get up and continue.
In the 19th minute, another RSL long-range shot was parried by Troy Perkins over goal for a corner kick; however, Javier Morales’ attempt bounced harmlessly over the goal line and out for a goal kick. Will Johnson cut through the Timbers defense in the 23rd minute, but his shot went directly to Perkins.
Kreis was forced to make a substitution in the 24th minute, bringing Luis Gil on in for the injured Grabavoy, who was unable to continue; Kreis said after the match that Grabavoy had “wobbled” one knee and had a bad bruise on the other leg. Gil immediately began to make an impact in the RSL midfield, creating opportunities on the attack and moving well off the ball.
As the match wore on, RSL looked more like its old self, moving the ball around and finding more passes between the midfield and strikers. The Timbers largely accommodated Real, playing further back and with less pressure than some of the other recent visitors to Rio Tinto Stadium.
While RSL had 62.1% of possession in the first half, Portland was able to find a handful of opportunities to score. In the 30th minute, a Timbers corner kick gave the Real defense a bit of trouble but the follow-up shot went high over the bar. A few minutes later, Eric Alexander’s shot was deflected and gave Nick Rimando a scare in goal.
Olave had an excellent opportunity to score in the 35th minute on a free kick, but his header went over the crossbar.
Both sides had a few additional chances before halftime, but the final efforts were lacking and the half finished 0-0.
Neither side made any changes at the half, and the second half began much the same as the first had ended. Morales’ corner kick in the 47the minute caused a few problems for the Timbers defense, but RSL was unable to cause Perkins much trouble in the end.
Kreis did make an uncharacteristically early 2nd-half substitution, bringing Emiliano Bonfigli on for Paulo Junior in the 54th minute. In the 59th minute, Morales’ low, driven cross skirted across the Timbers goalmouth, but Saborio was unable to get on the end.
Saborio broke the game open in the 60th minute, scoring on a header. Gil cut the ball back in the corner and dished it off to Kyle Beckerman, who was open in central midfield. Beckerman’s looping diagonal ball was in a perfect position for Saborio, who beat Mamadou Danso for the goal.
“The first one was really special, wasn’t it?” Kreis remarked of the goal after the match.
Saborio earned another one less than two minutes later, when he sneaked past Portland’s Steven Smith and got on the end of Chris Wingert’s through-ball.
A scuffle broke out in the 64th minute when Morales was down and Diego Chara put his hand across Morales to keep him from getting up, prompting several players to react. Will Johnson, David Horst, and Chara received cautions for their parts in the fracas. However, tempers continued to flare as Lovel Palmer received a yellow card in the 67th minute for a foul on Morales, and Smith received yet another yellow card in the 68th minute after yet another foul on Morales.
Fucito and Boyd came on in the 68th minute for the Timbers as Spencer attempted to inject some attacking flair into his side.
In the 74th minute, Chara received a red card for a handball in the penalty area; the assistant referee spotted Chara handling the ball near the goal line after another Saborio header and alerted referee Mark Geiger. Saborio slotted home the subsequent penalty kick for a hat trick, just the second for RSL in an MLS match.
Spencer was forced to make his final substitution to adjust for the red card, and Hanyer Mosquera came on for Alexander in the 75th minute.
Portland’s frustration was evident in the final 20 minutes, and Danso received another caution for pulling Bonfigli back.
Kreis’ final switch was to bring Kwame Watson-Siriboe on for Olave in the 82nd minute, and the last 15 minutes truly belonged to RSL. Beckerman had a long-range chance in the 84th minute, but his effort went over the crossbar, and several other chances were just off the mark.
Morales had an excellent opportunity in stoppage time, dribbling in on goal virtually alone, but Perkins was able to make the save.
“We’ve moved a step in the right direction,” Kreis said after the match.