The Portland Timbers closed out their regular season home slate with a commanding 3-0 win over Real Salt Lake on Sunday. With goals coming from three players, it was Sebastian Blanco who was once again the highlight of the scoreline, notching his tenth goal and eleventh assist of the season.
Moments after the whistle, the Timbers looked to strike quickly down the pitch; and before the first minute of play had elapsed, Liam Ridgewell found Diego Valeri streaking through the heart of the RSL back line with a ball over the top. Valeri brought the ball down, cut back around a sliding defender, and fired a shot on goal from a tight angle that forced Nick Rimando to tip the ball up and over the bar for a corner kick.
The Timbers next chance would come in the 10th minute when the side broke quickly forward after an RSL free kick deep in the Timbers’ end. A series of quick passes through the midfield eventually found Valeri at the top of the RSL box where the Maestro took a quick shot, but sent his attempt skipping wide of goal.
In the 15th minute, the Timbers got the opening goal. After Diego Chara earned a foul in the RSL half, Diego Valeri sent a lofted ball into the box off the restart. Valeri’s ball dropped at the far post into the path of Larrys Mabiala who hit the ball on the volley, tapping it between Rimando and the post to give the Timbers a 1-0 lead.
With the Timbers now ahead, RSL had no choice but to push for an equalizer and their commitment forward only gave the Timbers more space to hit out on the break.
In the 19th minute, the Timbers came close again when they found Sebastian Blanco on an overlapping run down the left. In space, Blanco managed a shot only for it to be blocked away from goal and spin to Valeri at the top of the box. With defenders closing him down, Valeri pivoted on the ball and hit a curling shot, but could not pick out the corner of the net, sending it just wide of goal.
In the 32nd minute, RSL managed a chance of their own. On the ball and faced up with a defender, winger Jefferson Savarino juked on the ball and found space to get off a deflected shot, but his attempt skipped directly into the waiting arms of Steve Clark for the save.
The visitors managed a better chance in the 44th minute off a Joao Plata corner kick. Plata whipped the ball in toward the near post and found the run of Kyle Beckerman for a sharp header on goal. With only a split second to react, Clark got his hand up and deflected the ball up and into the air where Mabiala rose up to head it clear. RSL kept the pressure on with a series of corner kicks as the half entered added time, but could not find another chance on goal before the break.
Coming back from the half, RSL began to put their mark on the match and in the 52nd minute the visitors looked sure to even up the match if not for another timely intervention from Clark. After an RSL corner kick saw the ball knocked down at the edge of the six yard box, center back Justin Glad snapped off a quick, hard shot with nobody but Clark between him and the goal. Again, however, Clark was able to react just quick enough to make the save, bringing up a strong hand to knock the ball up over the bar.
In the 60th minute, RSL threatened again off a corner kick, catching the Timbers unawares on a long ball over the box and into the path of attacking midfielder Albert Rusnak. As the ball dropped to him out on the flank, Rusnak had a clear line of sight to goal and lined up a thunderous volley that flew on target only for Clark to punch the ball away.
After a long stretch of nervy moments, the chances began to come again for the Timbers in the 62nd minute when Andy Polo played Jorge Villafana in to the RSL end line with a coolly back-heeled pass. Villafana carried the ball toward goal before playing a low pass into the box that Blanco hit with his first touch, but could not steer on goal.
Then, in the 68th, the Timbers got their second goal of the night. Breaking out of their end, the Timbers found Blanco streaking down the right wing with space in front of him and only one defender back on the play. Lifting his head, Blanco spotted the run of Diego Chara through the midfield and played a perfectly weighted pass into his stride. Getting to the ball just before a sliding Rimando rushing off his line, Chara touched the ball around the RSL keeper and tucked home the open goal finish to put the Timbers up 2-0.
The Timbers came close again in the 82nd minute when Valeri dropped the ball to Andy Polo in space on the left. Facing up his man, Polo took a touch inside before driving toward the end line and leaving his defender behind him. With no angle to speak of, Polo powered a shot on goal, but could only smash it into the torso of Rimando who held strong and deflected the ball away from goal.
With RSL now desperate to get back in the game, the Timbers were able to capitalize yet again in the 86th minute when they found substitute Lucas Melano on the break. With a pair of defenders closing him down, Melano checked up and slid a through ball into the path of Blanco on the edge of the box. Cutting around his man, Blanco off-balanced Rimando with a shot cut back across the face of goal, rolling it by the RSL keeper and into the back of the net for a 3-0 lead to close out the match.
The Timbers close out their regular season campaign next Sunday when they will travel north to take on the Vancouver Whitecaps.