Real Salt Lake 2: Portland Timbers 1
by Kali Korbis. RioTinto Stadium
Real Salt Lake defeated the Portland Timbers 2-1 on Wednesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium, advancing to the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup final.
Alvaro Saborio put RSL out in front with a 7th-minute strike and Joao Plata doubled the lead in the 78th minute, while Diego Valeri pulled one back for the Timbers at the brink of stoppage time.
In the first Open Cup semifinal for both teams, Real jumped out to the early lead thanks to Saborio. The ball pinged around after an RSL corner, eventually finding its way back to Kyle Beckerman; the midfielder crossed the ball and found Saborio’s head to beat Donovan Ricketts for the goal.
Real seemed to go into a shell after the goal, struggling on the transition into attack without Javier Morales, who began the match on the bench due to injury.
The Timbers came close in the 10th minute, forcing a scramble for the ball in the RSL penalty box, but the effort came to nothing in the end. However, they continued to cause problems for Real, hitting long diagonal balls behind the defense; ultimately, some good one-on-one defending and some excellent goalkeeping from Nick Rimando preserved RSL’s lead going into halftime.
Portland had the majority of the possession throughout the match, but were unable to break down a Real defense buoyed by the returns of Tony Beltran, Chris Wingert, and Carlos Salcedo to the starting lineup.
Valeri, in particular, looked dangerous for the Timbers as they tried to battle their way back into the match.
However, it was RSL that would strike again, somewhat against the run of play.
Plata, who had entered the match for Robbie Findley near the 63rd minute, provided the spark for the home side, curling a shot from distance past Ricketts.
This time, scoring seemed to give Real more momentum, despite the Timbers’ attempts to push forward in search of a goal. Just as it seemed RSL had the match all sewn up, Valeri beat Rimando with his own rebound to pull one back as the match went into stoppage time.
An equalizer was not in the cards for Portland, however, and Real held on for the victory in front of 14,742 fans — a new record for an Open Cup semifinal.
RSL will host DC United, who defeated the Chicago Fire 2-0 earlier on Wednesday night, on October 1 in the Cup final.