The Portland Timbers came close but in the end could not sneak a point out of Rio Tinto Stadium as they lost 2-1 to Real Salt Lake. Despite Diego Valeri scoring for the MLS record eighth game in a row, the Timbers defense was unable to contain the individual skill of the RSL front line and they paid the price for it.
The Timbers started the match on the back foot and were not able to exert themselves on the match before Real succeeded in opening the scoring. In the 14th minute, the Timbers looked to be building an attack only for an errant pass from Dairon Asprilla to roll into the space between Darlington Nagbe and David Guzman, finding RSL playmaker Albert Rusnak.
In space, Rusnak dribbled toward the Timbers goal before unleashing a powerful shot that swerved as it sped toward Jeff Attinella. With the ball dipping in front of him, Attinella was able to get both hands on the ball, but the shot was too heavy to redirect around the post and instead blew through the attempted save and into the back of the net.
Luis Silva came close to extending the RSL lead in the 30th minute as he ran onto a deflected ball in the Timbers’ box. With defenders collapsing on him and Attinella making himself large, Silva got off a quick shot with the outside of his boot only for the Timbers keeper to block the point-blank shot and clean up the ensuing rebound.
The chances eventually began to come for the Timbers and late in the first half it was — who else? — Diego Valeri who came close to pulling the Timbers even. A strong run to the end line from Sebastian Blanco with the ball at his feet opened up space in the Real box for Valeri to run into. Blanco cut a ball back into the Maestro’s path and Valeri slid to make contact, putting a hard shot on frame only for Nick Rimando to save the shot.
After the close call in the first half, Valeri would not be denied in the second. Just two minutes into the half, Valeri pulled the Timbers even, breaking the MLS record for goals in consecutive games with a goal in the 47th minute. Receiving the ball out wide on the right flank, Asprilla hit a curling cross toward Valeri’s run at the back post. As the perfectly weighted ball dropped to him, Valeri powered a header down and off the pitch, skipping the ball past the dive of Rimando and into the back of the net, sending him into the record books and pulling the score even at 1-1.
Despite the Timbers playing with increasing confidence, RSL would regain their lead in the 61st minute. Getting the ball down the pitch, Real found winger Jefferson Savarino in isolation against Roy Miller out wide on the Timbers’ left. With Miller anticipating a drive to the end line, Savarino instead cut back onto his left foot and curled a dipping ball toward the far post that picked out the upper corner of the net and left Attinella with no chance at a save.
Now back in the lead, RSL clamped down on defense and shots were once again a rarity for the Timbers. Although they managed a handful of attempts from distance, including a free kick from Valeri that forced a save from Rimando, the packed-in RSL back line kept the Timbers from breaking into the box until the final whistle in the 93rd minute.
The Timbers return to Portland for their next match when they host Orlando City SC on Sunday, September 24th.