It is official: Jason Kreis’s Real Salt Lake will be taking on Peter Vermes’s Sporting Kansas City in the 2013 MLS Cup Final on Dec. 7, 2013 at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan. RSL defeated Caleb Porter’s Portland Timbers, 1-0, in the second leg of the 2013 MLS Western Conference Final to win on aggregate, 5-2 at JELD-WEN Field in Portland, Ore.
Here are six things we learned from Real Salt Lake’s insurance victory over the Portland Timbers on Sunday night.
1. Slow start to the first half
Early on in the first half, Portland had the intention of playing like desperate dogs to make up a two-goal margin. A shot from Diego Valeri in the first minute was blocked. Seconds later, a corner from Will Johnson threatened to press the issue. As for Real Salt Lake, they weren’t slowing down. In the fifth minute, a Javier Morales set piece was poorly headed by Devon Sandoval and bounced off the turf and over the bar.
Lovel Palmer was cautioned in the seventh minute for a rough challenge on Will Johnson. A cross for Diego Valeri fell short of connecting in the ninth minute. In the 15th minute, a would-be goal for Mamadou “Futty” Danso was called back due to a foul by Rodney Wallace. The visitors did a great job neutralizing the Timbers attack in the first 15 minutes of play while creating chances of their own off the counter.
2. Robbie Findley strikes again
Another chance for Devon Sandoval in the 16th minute was back for offsides. A shot for Valeri in the 17th minute was collected by RSL netminder Nick Rimando. A shot from Johnson in the 19th minute went wide left. Diego Valeri almost had a good look in the 21st. An injury to Wallace in the 25th minute nearly forced Maxi Urruti on to the pitch.
A chance from Robbie Findley in the 27th minute was collected by Rimando’s counterpart. Donovan Ricketts. Eventually, Urruti came in for Frederic Piquionne in the 27th minute of play. Findley eventually finished the job in the 29th minute due to a poor clearance from Ricketts.
3. Frustration from Portland starts to mount
Tempers started to flare in the 31st minute, forcing referee Mark Geiger to establish some order. A shot from Johnson in the 32nd minute was cleared, as was the ensuing corner. A would-be goal from Valeri in the 33rd minute was denied by an offside call on Danso, who did not cover himself in glory in the last game.
Urruti nearly broke through in the 37th minute of play but was denied by Palmer. A set piece in the 39th minute by Johnson failed to find anybody but Rimando. In the 42nd minute, a couple of corners for Morales resulted in a collection for Ricketts. Another corner for Portland in the 44th minute was cleared by Palmer. At the half, it was 1-0 Real Salt Lake in the second leg after Kalif Alhassan came in for Wallace late in the first.
Portland Timbers Real Salt Lake
8 Attempts on Goal 6
1 Shots on Target 2
3 Shots off Target 2
4 Blocked Shots 2
5 Corner Kicks 3
7 Fouls 7
12 Open Play Crosses 4
3 Offsides 1
0 First Yellow Cards 1
0 Second Yellow Cards 0
0 Red Cards 0
33 Duels Won 28
54% Duels Won % 45%
177 Total Pass 147
70% Passing Accuracy % 61%
56.3% Possession 43.7%
4. Tensions remain high in second half
Early on in the second half, Real Salt Lake needed to play defensive football and neutralize any chance at a goal explosion by Portland because they were now in control of this tie. A shot from Jack Jewsbury in the 47th minute was punched out by Rimando.
After another set piece by RSL was collected by Ricketts in the 53rd minute, more fisticuffs took place involving Chris Schuler, who was cautioned for his involvement. Valeri’s next attempt in the 55th minute went over the bar. In the 57th minute, a free kick from Will Johnson was cleared and the rebound from Valeri went wide. Kenny Mansally was brought in for Lovel Palmer as a safety valve in the 59th minute.
5. Real Salt Lake on sweeper duty
At this point in the match, the Timbers were running out of ideas to stop Real Salt Lake’s efficiency on the pitch. A shot from Johnson in the 61st minute hit the wall easily and never threatened. A minute later, a Johnson corner was poorly hit and Alhassan tried to counter but failed.
Meanwhile, the visitors didn’t let up; they were cranking up the heat. Luis Gil’s first chance on goal was collected by Ricketts in the 66th minute. In the 67th minute, a set piece from Morales was collected by the Big Cat from Montego Bay. Darlington Nagbe and Johnson failed to connect a minute later. Gil was denied again by Ricketts in the 69th minute.
Another corner for the Timbers in the 70th minute was cleared before Ryan Johnson came in for Jack Jewsbury in a last-ditch attempt for Caleb Porter. Ricketts came off his line in the 72nd minute to deny Findley his brace. Another Portland corner was cleared in workmanline fashion by Real Salt Lake’s backline. Diego Chara lost the race for the ball to Rimando in the 75th minute.
6. It’s Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting Kansas City for all the marbles
Later in the match, the onus was on Real Salt Lake to close out the match in professional fashion. Obviously, another goal or two late wouldn’t hurt. A chance for Kyle Beckerman in the 77th minute was foiled. Michael Harrington and Ryan Johnson failed to connect in the 80th minute, even though the Timbers won a throw. That summed up Portland’s efforts against Real Salt Lake this series: the lack of finish in the attacking third. Ned Grabavoy broke through in the 83rd minute but his touch failed him. Urruti got a shot off a minute later, only to see it swallowed up by Rimando.
Devon Sandoval was subbed off for Olmes Garcia in the 85th minute after a solid shift up top. Sandoval immediately got a yellow card for delaying a restart. A shot from Harrington in the 87th minute found no one in green and missed wide right. Late in the match, Sebastian Velasquez came in for Grabavoy in stoppage time. Neither team threatened in stoppage time, aside from a shot from Alhassan in the fourth minute. At that point, it was a done deal for Real Salt Lake.
|Portland Timbers||Real Salt Lake|
|18||Attempts on Goal||7|
|2||Shots on Target||3|
|10||Shots off Target||2|
|31||Open Play Crosses||8|
|1||First Yellow Cards||3|
|0||Second Yellow Cards||0|
|54%||Duels Won %||46%|
|71%||Passing Accuracy %||68%|