RSL Chops Down Portland Timbers FC, 2-1, Before Sellout CrowdSeptember 22, 2012 - Major League Soccer (MLS) Real Salt Lake
Despite the absence of leading scorer Alvaro Saborio due to a shoulder injury suffered in Tuesday's 1-0 CONCACAF Champions League victory in Panama City against Tauro FC, Real Salt Lake started the game brightly, controlling possession and searching for a cutting edge play in Portland's defensive third. The Claret-and-Cobalt found one in the 14th minute, when EspÃ-ndola found the back of the net for the first time since June 16 - a span of 14 games in all competitions - to give Jason Kreis' team a 1-0 lead.
The play began when Timbers captain Jack Jewsbury fouled Morales just outside the Portland box to give RSL a dangerous free kick. Morales took the first touch on the set piece, delicately tapping a ball with the bottom of his boot toward the middle that EspÃ-ndola slammed through the wall and inside Portland's left post.
The Timbers responded immediately to EspÃ-ndola's goal, creating a half-chance on the counter in the 18th minute before being robbed of an equalizer by RSL GK Nick Rimando in the 21st minute. Timbers MF Rodney Wallace had the chance, heading a corner kick on frame that Rimando miraculously parried away, exhibiting his world-class, cat-like reflexes.
Morales doubled RSL's lead in the 36th minute, scoring a fantastic free-kick goal - his first since June 23 - to put the Utah side up 2-0. The play began with a foul on Morales 24 yards out on the left flank. Morales again converted the set piece, curling a beautiful right-footed shot past Portland GK Joseph Bendik and into the top left corner. Morales' last goal came on a similar free kick on June 23 in a 1-2 loss against San Jose, a span of 11 games.
With RSL scoring twice in the first half for the first time since June 20 at home against Los Angeles - and scoring multiple goals in a half for just the third time since that mid-June date - the teams entered halftime with RSL up 2-0. The Timbers made an offensive change at the break, bringing on FW Bright Dike for DF Steven Smith.
The second stanza began rather slowly, with neither side able to create anything of note until RSL had a good look in the 57th. EspÃ-ndola had the chance; collecting a ball at the top of the box and fantastically freeing himself in the Timbers box before firing his shot off a Portland player and out for a corner kick.
RSL FW Paulo Junior - starting in place of Saborio - had a golden chance in the 60th minute. The Brazilian attacker collected a through ball on the right side of the box after a 1-2 with Morales, cutting toward goal before firing a ball across the face of goal and out of play.
Portland made RSL pay for its missed opportunities in the 61st minute, pulling a goal back through Dike. The big striker lost RSL DF Jamison Olave in the box, smartly heading MF Sal Zizzo's spectacular cross from the right wing inside the far post from the left side of the box.
RSL had yet another good look in the 64th minute, but again failed to capitalize. Paulo Junior stripped a Timbers player of the ball in a dangerous area, quickly taking a touch before playing EspÃ-ndola through for a 1-v-1 with Bendik. The Argentine attacker couldn't take advantage though, hitting his shot directly at the onrushing 'keeper, who deflected the ball out of danger.
In the waning moments, RSL again rode the expertise of GK Rimando, who parried a Frank Songo'o blast over the bar and saw another Dike header slam off the woodwork en route to the victory, which assured RSL of postseason participation for a fifth consecutive year, the longest active streak in Major League Soccer and only the seventh streak of 5 or more in the league post-shootout era (2000 - present).
Major League Soccer Stories from September 22, 2012
- MLS Cup Playoff Race Update: Real Salt Lake and La Galaxy Clinch Berths - MLS
- Galaxy clinch MLS Cup Playoff spot - Los Angeles Galaxy
- Real Salt Lake Tops Timbers 2-1 - Portland Timbers
- Chicago Fire Burn Columbus Crew 2-1 in Comeback Victory - Chicago Fire
- RSL Chops Down Portland Timbers FC, 2-1, Before Sellout Crowd - Real Salt Lake
- Red Bulls Earn 1-1 Road Tie against New England Revolution - New York Red Bulls
- Sporting KC Unbeaten Streak Reaches Eight with 0-0 Draw at Montreal - Sporting Kansas City
- Dynamo Face Philadelphia on Sunday in Key, Late-Season Road Match - Houston Dynamo
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