The Portland Timbers earned a 2-2 draw on the road against Real Salt Lake, taking the first points from RSL at Rio Tinto this season thanks to goals from Fanendo Adi and Lucas Melano.
The home side jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute against the run of play. Earning a corner after several Timbers chances, RSL old boy Javier Morales sent a hard, curling ball just past the Timbers’ far post, finding the head of Burrito Martinez as he slipped away from his marker. At point blank range, Martinez was able to bury his header past Jake Gleeson as the Timbers keeper could only wave in vain at the ball.
Now behind, the Timbers would storm back down the pitch in the 29th minute, evening things up with Adi’s ninth goal of the season. The big man bodied past his defender, RSL center back Justin Glad, and latched on to a bouncing long ball from Jermaine Taylor, touching it past the on-rushing Nick Rimando and into the back of the net to even the score up at 1-1.
With both teams now feeling that victory was within their grasp, the match got chippy quickly with both Ben Zemanski and Diego Chara earning yellow cards in the 33rd minute.
Despite the calls going in RSL’s direction, it was the Timbers who would break the deadlock in the 44th minute. Getting the ball to Diego Valeri outside the RSL box, the Maestro fed the ball in to Adi, who held it up and played a simple return pass as Valeri charged into the box. With the ball at his feet, the Maestro hit a low shot that beat Rimando, but caromed off the far post, bouncing out into space outside the RSL box and directly to Melano. With a defender closing him down, Melano had just enough time to slip a quick shot inside the near post for the 2-1 lead.
RSL would have their chance to even things up in the 70th minute as RSL forward Yura Movsisyan drove into the Timbers’ box from the RSL left and cut around Taylor, getting taken down by the Timbers full back in the process. Referee Allan Kelly pointed to the spot and Movsisyan stepped up to take the penalty. Gleeson dove in the correct direction, but Movsisyan stroked the spot kick home all the same, evening things up at 2-2.
The RSL striker looked good for the game winner minutes later in the 74th minute as he got on the end of a deflected ball in the Timbers’ box, but Gleeson was equal to the challenge, laying out to push away Movsisyan’s curled shot.
RSL would continue pressing forward as the game ground on, peppering the Timbers with shots as the away side looked to break out and hit them on the counter, but failed to forge any real link between the forwards and the packed-in defense.
Still, it was the Timbers that thought they had the game winner in the 85th minute as Diego Valeri slipped a clever ball in behind the RSL defense for the run of Darren Mattocks, who slipped a ball just inside the far post to beat Rimando. It would not count, however, as the assistant referee raised his flag to call Mattocks offside. Replay would show that Mattocks was even with the last man as the ball was played, but that was little comfort for the side.
The chance precipitated a change in momentum in the match and for the final minutes it was the Timbers pressing forward. Still, the winning goal would not come and the match ended even at 2-2.
The tie leaves the Timbers treading water in 7th place in the West as they return home to face the Houston Dynamo on Sunday at Providence Park.