In yet another midweek match, the Portland Timbers fell on the road to Real Salt Lake 2-1. The loss ended Portland’s winning streak at five, but didn’t drop them in the standings. Bill Tuiloma had the lone goal of the night for Portland.
Portland rotated some more for this matchup, which isn’t surprising since October is a very tightly scheduled month for them. Most notably, Aljaz Ivacic started instead of Steve Clark at the goal. Along with that, Larrys Mabiala and Pablo Bonilla were injected back into the starting XI, as well as Felipe Mora, Bill Tuiloma, and Cristhian Paredes. Tomas Conechny also got the start.
The match started with some controversy early. Diego Valeri got a good through-ball to Jeremy Ebobisse, but Andrew Putna tried to challenge. It looked like Putna didn’t get a whole lot of ball though, mostly hitting Ebobisse. But even then, no foul was called and no PK was given. Merritt Paulson had some feelings about the no-call.
“Almost”?! Who is running this acct— Merritt Paulson (@MerrittPaulson) October 15, 2020
Portland has done an excellent job at striking first. Coming into this match, they had gone eight straight games scoring the first goal. That was not the case tonight. In the 11th minute, Douglas Martinez took advantage of an Aljaz Ivacic mistake. Ivacic should have collected the ball but instead deflected it, and Martinez jumped right on it and shot it into the net. The eight-match streak had ended and it was 1-0 RSL.
Defensive struggles would mar the first half for Portland. RSL constantly put the pressure on and kept finding the gaps in the defense. Damir Kreilach was particularly dangerous for most of the half, finding the ball in the right spots far too often if you’re the Timbers.
The second goal came on a set piece in the 26th minute. RSL earned the corner kick opportunity and sailed a ball into the box. It soared right to an unmarked Kreilach, who took it right off the volley and rolled it right by Ivacic. Kreilach had broken through, and Portland suddenly was in a lot of trouble.
It would have helped if Portland could make up for defensive woes with offensive firepower, but that was not the case. Portland only had one shot attempt in the half and also lost the possession battle 53% to 47%. After so many dominant halves, it seems like Portland was due for a bad one. They trailed 2-0 at the half.
The second half started, and there were some scary moments to start. Kreilarch got an opportunity just a couple minutes into the half and Corey Baird had a goal that was eventually called offside. The Baird attempt was a clear offside, but there were still some opportunities early for RSL.
Eventually, RSL started to sit back deeper and deeper hoping to maintain their lead. It allowed Portland to maintain possession better and feel RSL out. But all of Portland’s best chances came off set piece opportunities, and that was exactly how they broke through.
In the 77th minute, Valeri set up to launch a corner kick. He had spent most of the night sending great balls into the box, and this kick was no different. Valeri put it in a spot where only Tuiloma could get it and the defender headed it right into the top half of the goal. All the sudden it was only 2-1, and Portland really started pushing.
Opportunities started coming left and right for Portland, almost all of them off of set pieces. The sequence of events usually went something like this: The Timbers would earn the call, Valeri would set himself up to deliver the kick, he would deliver an almost always beautiful ball, and a flock of Timbers would try to convert. Tuiloma especially seemed to be hunting that second header.
But unfortunately, it was all just too little too late. The final push never resulted in any goals, and the unbeaten streak had ended. Portland lost 2-1 to RSL.
The Timbers will have three days to rest before their Sunday matchup against Los Angeles Football Club. Kickoff for that will be at 7 p.m. PT.