Unlike the first leg of the 2013 MLS Eastern Conference Final, the first leg of the 2013 MLS Western Conference Final between Jason Kreis’s Real Salt Lake and Caleb Porter’s Portland Timbers saw plenty of goals and plenty of action. On Sunday night at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, the hosts powered their way to a 4-2 victory over the Timbers and are in the driver’s seat to punch their ticket to the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League.
Here are six things we learned from the first leg between Real Salt Lake and the Portland Timbers.
1. Will Johnson starts things up for Portland
Early on in the first half, both teams elected to play cautious football. A shot from Sebastian Velasquez in the fourth minute wide left. Velasquez nearly became the villain in the seventh minute but was bailed out by Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando. Robbie Findley won a corner in the 11th minute which was cleared. In the 14th minute, a Will Johnson set piece was converted with solid bend and bravado to give the Timbers a 1-0 lead.
2. Real Salt Lake react with pressure and chances
Portland were looking to build on their advantage, but Real Salt Lake were hoping to stop the bleeding. A chance in the 18th minute from Findley went south for Kyle Beckerman. The ensuing corner was squandered. The play started to get a little bit physical, with the fouls piling up.
RSL were also piling on the chances. A cross om the 23rd minute from Chris Wingert was squandered by Devon Sandoval, who was forced to fill in for Alvaro Saborio up top. Tony Beltran tried his luck in the 24th minute but to no avail. A shot from Beckerman in the 26th minute missed wide right, although he should have won a free kick. A set piece from Javier Morales in the 28th minute was collected by Donovan Ricketts.
3. Here come Chris Schuler…and Robbie Findley
Lovel Palmer was brought in to relieve Wingert, who took a shot to the ribs and had to be subbed. A Morales corner in the 35th minute was converted by Chris Schuler off a mistake by Futty Danso, who was a hero in their last match with the Los Angeles Galaxy just a few nights ago. In the 38th minute, Schuler nearly got a brace but was denied by Diego Valeri.
In the 39th minute, Nat Borchers almost gave the hosts the lead but made a meal of it. In the 41st minute, Findley made it 2-1 Real Salt Lake on another defensive mistake from Danso. Portland won a corner in the 45th minute which was cleared.
Real Salt Lake Portland Timbers
12 Attempts on Goal 1
4 Shots on Target 1
6 Shots off Target 0
2 Blocked Shots 0
5 Corner Kicks 0
6 Fouls 6
15 Open Play Crosses 3
0 Offsides 1
0 First Yellow Cards 0
0 Second Yellow Cards 0
0 Red Cards 0
26 Duels Won 28
49% Duels Won % 51%
180 Total Pass 130
78% Passing Accuracy % 61%
59.2% Possession 40.8%
4. Real Salt Lake pick up from where they started
In the second half, the hosts aimed to build on the turnaround. They did so in the 48th minute thanks to the aforementioned Sandoval from Findley. The first-time shot was a stroke of pure marvel for the first-year man from New Mexico. Danso and Jack Jewsbury were left to dry in the back.
A heavy touch from Luis GIl in the 52nd minute prevented an early 4-1 scoreline. Sandoval nearly got his brace in the 57th minute but could not finish on the cross. Kalif Alhassan couldn’t finish off the cross from Jose Valencia in the 58th minute of play.
5. Portland put the clamps down midway through second half
The paced slowed down later on, perhaps to set up for a fast finish to the first leg. Joao Plata was brought in at the 66th-minute mark to add a little bit more of a goal cushion. It wasn’t as if he wasn’t really needed; Portland elected to go on the defensive and did well to neutralize any further goals after the hour mark.
6. RSL and Portland trade goals late to close out first leg
A shot from Alhassan in the 78th minute was collected by Rimando, who didn’t have to make a lot of saves on Sunday night thanks to a solid backline that adjusted following the Will Johnson goal. In the 81st, Donovan Ricketts made a spectacular save on Gil.
But one minute later, Morales beat Ricketts on a header from a corner to make it 4-1 Real Salt Lake. A cross in the 88th minute for Velasquez went south for the hosts and a corner in the 92nd minute for Portland was collected by Rimando. Despite a 94th minute header from Frederic Piquionne off the first touch, the hosts got a solid result and a healthy cushion heading into the second leg at JELD-WEN Field.
|Real Salt Lake||Portland Timbers|
|18||Attempts on Goal||7|
|8||Shots on Target||3|
|8||Shots off Target||3|
|18||Open Play Crosses||18|
|0||First Yellow Cards||1|
|0||Second Yellow Cards||0|
|51%||Duels Won %||48%|
|74%||Passing Accuracy %||71%|