Portland Timbers Fall 4-2 to League-leaders Real Salt Lake on the Road
Forward Joao Plata scored a goal and recorded two assists to help league-leading Real Salt Lake earn a 4-2 win over the Portland Timbers, who played shorthanded in the second half following a red card right before halftime, at Rio Tinto Stadium on Friday night.
The Timbers (9-5-12, 39pts) currently sit in a two-way tie for third place in a tightly contested Western Conference. Real Salt Lake (14-8-6, 48pts) extends its lead at the top of the conference table and in the race for the Supporters’ Shield with the win.
Real Salt Lake got off to a quick start, scoring twice in the opening 15 minutes, but the Timbers fought their way back into the match when forward Darlington Nagbe scored in the 31st minute to cut the deficit, 2-1, heading into halftime. Portland, however, went down a man in first-half stoppage time when Ben Zemanski was issued a straight red card.
Forward Javier Morales factored in both goals for Real Salt Lake in the second half, as the home side took a 4-1 lead in the 67th minute. The Timbers found a goal in the 78th minute to pull one back as a hard shot on target by forward Jose Valencia set up Sal Zizzo for a goal off the rebound.
Portland’s loss is just its fifth of the season, which is tied for the fewest in MLS. The Timbers have lost back-to-back games for just the first time this season and for the first time since July 21-28, 2012.
Despite being down a player for 45 minutes, the Timbers nearly matched Real Salt Lake in shots (11-9) and shots on goal (6-4), and held the advantage in corner kicks, 6-4.
Real Salt Lake took the lead in the ninth minute on the fifth goal of the season by midfielder Luis Gil. A series of quick passes allowed Plata to slip Gil down the right side of the box and, with a clean look, Gil placed a shot along the ground just by Timbers goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts and inside the left post.
Six minutes later, Plata was on the receiving end of a pass from midfielder Ned Grabavoy near the top of the box on the left side. With his first touch, Plata was able to get around his defender and, from inside the box, struck a shot off the right post that deflected in for a 2-0 lead.
Portland pulled one back just after the half hour mark on Nagbe’s eighth goal of the season. Defender Michael Harrington quickly moved the ball up the left flank before passing the ball off to Nagbe in the middle of the park. Nagbe set himself up for a shot from distance that skipped past Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando and inside the left post to cut the deficit 2-1.
The Timbers, who had a chance at the equalizer in the 41st minute on a free kick by Kalif Alhassan, were reduced 10 players when referee Baldomero Toledo deemed Zemanski’s hard challenge on Grabavoy in the midfield circle worthy of a straight red card.
Morales’ seventh goal of the season lifted Real Salt Lake to a 3-1 lead in the 55th minute. A corner kick by Plata from the left side found Morales on the back side the penalty area. His first touch popped the ball slightly into the air. With his back to goal, Morales then took a shot with an overhead kick that sent the ball inside the top left corner of the goal.
Real Salt Lake pushed its lead to 4-1 in the 67th minute. A free kick from the right side by Morales found forward Álvaro Saborío running along the top of the six-yard box, and Saborío was able to snap a header from a tight angle just under the crossbar.
Valencia unloaded a hard shot from distance aimed inside the top left corner of the goal in the 78th minute, and Rimando was just able to knock the ball down for the save. But Zizzo was there to pounce on the rebound and scored his first goal of the season.
Portland had a good look on goal in the 70th minute when defender Alvas Powell got on the end of a free kick in to the box, but his diving header went wide.