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Once again on the road, Portland dug themselves a hole to climb out of with a goal given up in the 14th minute on a free kick. Twenty minutes later, on another free kick, Portland gave up the second goal of the half. In the second half Portland showed some life, but could only come up with a consolation goal and went down 2-1.
Portland returned to the 4-3-3, this time with Danny Mwanga up top instead of Bright Dike, and Sal Zizzo back in the starting lineup. The changes helped the offensive players settle back into roles they felt comfortable with, and the offense showed some life early in the game. The early signs of life turned out to be fool's gold, as every attack sputtered and died when it reached the offensive third of the field. Most of the time it was due to a bad pass or someone trying to beat two or three defenders.
With Portland continually giving up the ball in the offensive third, Real Salt Lake was able to use the turnovers to immediately initiate their attack. Whether down the wing or through the middle, whichever way they attacked they were able to find space. By finding the space they were able to pick apart the Captain Jack Jewsbury and Rodney Wallace with short, precise passing.
The short one- and two-touch passing game RSL has been known for in the offensive third led to numerous chances. It also led to professional fouls as defenders were beat and forced to stop the attack in anyway they could. One such foul was just outside the box on what seemed like a touch foul that Javier Morales went down easy on. On the ensuing free kick, the ball was touched to the side and Fabian Espindola hit it hard on the ground right through the wall. Someone needs to charge the ball on the first touch, usually it is Diego Chara, instead of creating an opening in the wall.
From that point on in the half, RSL had all the energy and momentum going for them, and they continued to put Portland's defense under pressure. Most of attacks for RSL sputtered, or Portland's CBs had to come up with tackle or header to break up the attack. The back and forth play continued over the next 20 minutes without any chances created, until once again RSL won a free kick near the box. This time Morales hit the ball into the upper corner of the goal for the second goal of the half for RSL.
Portland limped into the half down 2-0 on the road.
Gavin Wilkinson made one change at the half bringing off Steven Smith, switching Wallace to left back and bringing in Bright Dike to go to a 4-4-2. The changes filled in some of the space the 4-3-3 gave to RSL and also helped Mwagna out up top. Slowly but surely Portland picked up momentum offensively and started to get into a rhythm with their possession. The rhythm helped Darlington Nagbe get the ball at his feet which in turn helped Portland's offense and the other players find space.
Zizzo was one such player and he was able to find more space on the wing. His runs down the wing created problems for RSL in the second half, as nobody else was able to actually hit the ball into the box for Portland. In the 61st minute Zizzo found time on the ball and hit a perfect curling ball to Dike, who headed the ball into the back of the net. It was a great goal and one that Portland rightfully deserved.
From that goal on RSL bunkered, while Portland made offensive subs to go for the equalizer. The subs were Kosuke Kimura out for Eric Alexander and Kalif Alhassan in for Franck Songo'o. Alexander's inclusion into the game pushed Sal Zizzo to the right back position and Nagbe out wide. This was done ... well I don't know why it was done. Either way it was GW going for broke and throwing caution to the wind.
The game became wide open at that point, with both RSL and Portland finding opportunities to score. RSL seemed to find more than Portland, but no goals were scored. Portland's best chance was once again created off a cross from Zizzo, but this time Dike's header went off the crossbar and out. RSL had one go off the post and two more saved by Joe Bendik.
In the end, it was too little too late for Portland, as they couldn't claw back into the game. Final score: 2-1.
- You saw the positive to an aggressive Songo'o in the San Jose Game, but in this game you saw the negative. Numerous times Smith was open for the overlap, but instead of playing it to Smith Songo'o tried to beat his defender and lost the ball.
- I know RSL folks will say Morales gets fouled a lot, but he really goes down easy around the 18. The foul which resulted in the second goal was a little dubious.
- 4 points from 15 road games.... Just let that sink in.
- Zizzo had a not so good first half, but a great second half
- Mwanga seems to need a second person up front with him to be effective. I really would like to see him do better as the target forward
- I just want this season to be over and to move onto the next season.