The Portland Timbers’ playoff hopes ended on Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium after being run off the field for the first fourty-five minutes of their first round playoff match against Real Salt Lake. Despite more October heroics from Dairon Asprilla, the Timbers were never able to fully overcome their slow start to the match before the home side ended their season.
The first chance of the night went to the home side when, in the 10th minute, Corey Baird recovered the ball in the Timbers end and played a quick one-two pass off Damir Kreilach. Receiving the ball inside the Timbers’ box, Baird burst toward goal before clipping a low shot toward the far post. The attempt forced Steve Clark to sprawl out across the face of goal where he put a hand to the ball and was able to push it wide.
Clark was called on again in the 14th minute when a long ball over the top from Real forced the Timbers keeper into a footrace with with an attacking player to make a desperation clearance under pressure. While Clark was able to get the ball away, it went only as far as Salt Lake full back Aaron Herrera who chested the ball down and struck a 30-yard, dipping volley that dropped toward goal. Recovering from his excursion out toward the sideline, Clark threw himself into the air just in time to put a hand to the ball and touch it up and over the frame of goal, keeping the scoreline even at 0-0.
The home side managed yet another chance on goal in the 18th minute. After Salt Lake sent a long range free kick into the Timbers’ box the ball was knocked down into space in front of striker Damir Kreilach. The RSL forward stepped into the ball and hit a low shot through traffic, but again Clark was there to get low and make the save.
Finally, in the 28th minute, Real managed to put one past Clark and open the scoring. After a period of possession in the Timbers’ end, Baird hit a curling ball from the flank toward the center of the Timbers’ box where Kreilach calmly stepped between the Timbers’ center backs and nodded the ball down off the ground, past Clark, and over the line to put Real up 1-0.
While the Timbers managed to pull themselves together after the goal, the flow of the game continued to be solidly in Real’s favor throughout the first half. After fourty-five minutes missed passes, poor touches, and a one goal deficit were all the Timbers had to show for their efforts.
That all changed just two minutes into the second half. After an initial burst of energy the Timbers earned their second corner kick of the match. Sebastian Blanco stepped up to the set-piece and hit an out-swinging ball toward the far post where Dairon Asprilla burst from the crowd and powered a headed ball off the turf and past Nick Rimando to even up the sides at 1-1.
The Timbers had a second chance of the night in the 60th when a chipped ball over the top from Blanco found the head of Jeremy Ebobisse in the RSL box. Instead of trying for the flick on toward goal, however, the Timbers’ forward nodded the ball backward into the path of Cristhian Paredes, making a following run into the box. As the ball bounced to him, Paredes took it on the volley, but could not steer his shot on frame and instead sent it out into the stands.
After Paredes’s miss, Real pushed back down the pitch and, off a free kick, managed a chance of their own to reassert themselves on the match. After the initial Salt Lake free kick was knocked away, Kyle Beckerman hit a curling ball back into the box for Uruguayan defender Marcelo Silva at the near post. Silva put a strong header on the ball that had the power to beat Clark, but he could not steer it on goal.
In response, the Timbers peppered Rimando’s goal with a series of shots from distance. Blanco, Tuiloma, and Diego Valeri each had a go from distance, and each put their attempt on goal, but Rimando was able to make the save on each.
The Timbers came close to getting the go-ahead goal in the 73rd minute when a ball down the right flank found Polo on the run. Carrying to ball toward the end line, Polo sent a chipped ball over the mouth of the Real goal, finding Paredes arriving at the back post for a flicked header back into the center of the box. As the ball dropped it fell to Blanco in space with his back to goal. With room to line up his shot, Blanco threw himself into an overhead kick and made solid contact only to see the attempt deflect off a defender and spin wide of goal.
In the 85th minute the Timbers again came close to going ahead. After receiving the ball wide on the Timbers’ right Asprilla held the ball, waiting until Valeri was able to work himself into space at the top of the box, before picking out the Maestro with a low pass. Valeri hit the pass first-time, sending a low shot skipping toward goal, but ultimately putting it just wide.
The miss would cost the Timbers as Real would strike back just two minutes later and retake the lead. When a pass across the top of the Timbers box from Joao Plata deflected off a Timbers defender, the ball fell to Jefferson Savarino in space on the Timber’s left. Savarino took his time as the Timbers’ back line scrambled to track him down and hit a low shot at the far post. Clark laid out across the face of goal and managed to get a touch to the shot, but he could not push it around the bar and the ball pinged off the far post and in to put Salt Lake back in the lead and closed out the match.