The Portland Timbers jumped on Real Salt Lake early today, grabbing a first minute goal and holding on for the rest of the match to win 1-0 in their final friendly in Tucson before heading back to Portland for the Simple Invitational.
From the opening whistle the Timbers pushed down the field, working the ball out wide to Diego Chara, who send Dairon Asprilla on the run down the right flank. With Jack McInerney and Lucas Melano in the box, Asprilla sent in a low cross for the crashing forwards. McInerney had the first bit at the apple, but could not connect with it, leaving the ball for Melano to finish at the back post, which he did with aplomb.
Now up 1-0, the Timbers were able to keep the pressure on RSL for much of the half, getting a number of good chances, including a hand ball in the RSL box that went uncalled.
Midway through the first half, however, tempers flared as RSL tried to get back in the game. Following a series of chippy plays from both sides, tempers reached a boiling point at Jermaine Taylor put in a point-making foul on an RSL player. Shoving ensued and as both teams became embroiled in the scrum, the brouhaha culminated in new RSL acquisition Sunny Obayan throwing punches and Timbers' forward Jack McInerney putting him in a headlock.
McInerney and RSL forward Yura Movsisyan were both ejected from the match -- but not red carded -- and the game resumed. Although the chippy undercurrent remained for the rest of the first half, but he second the game had calmed down once again.
With RSL keeping on most of their first team until the 60th minute and the Timbers fielding a mixed group in the second half, RSL were on the front foot for most of the second half, pushing down the pitch and keeping the Timbers' youngsters pinned back for long periods of time. As both sides brought on their second team units, however, the Timbers looked more and more likely to hit RSL on the counter, sending the ball down the right flank with draftee Neco Brett or down the left with trialist Nermin Crnkić.
In the end, neither team could break through for the match's second goal and the match ended with a low, left-footed shot from Brett that RSL keeper Nick Rimando saved easily.
The Timbers return to Portland for their next match, hosting Minnesota United on February 21st during the first day of the 2016 Simple Invitational.