It was a tale of two halves, as Real Salt Lake dominated the Portland Timbers in the opening 45 minutes of their Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs Round One clash on Saturday, the Timbers balancing things out in the second half, before RSL found the dagger in the dying minutes to win 2-1 and advance at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Capping off a wild Saturday to open the 2019 playoffs, the game featured snow, rain, trademark chippy play on both sides and a few moments of magic.
RSL were on the front foot early, peppering the Timbers goal with shots and forcing Steve Clark to make a series of saves, several rather unconventional. Aaron Herrera hit a speculative bomb from nearly 40 yards out in the 14th minute, and Clark got a hand to the chance to stop what would have been a golazo.
RSL found their breakthrough in the 28th minute, as Damir Kreilach continued his stellar form in the MLS postseason, scoring from a header from an early cross by Corey Baird. It was Kreilach’s fourth goal in four career playoff games.
The halftime break did Portland good, as they came out of the interval and immediately tied up the game, Dairon Asprilla continuing his own hot streak with a bullet header off a corner kick in the 47th minute.
But even though they were the second-best side for most of the second half, RSL found the late winner, with Albert Rusnak playing a perfect dummy to Jefferson Savarino, who scored the vital tally in the 87th minute.
- 28′ – RSL – Damir Kreilach | WATCH
- 47′ – POR – Dairon Asprilla | WATCH
- 87′ – RSL – Jefferson Savarino | WATCH
- THE BIG PICTURE: RSL held the edge in the statistical categories, and on balance were the better side overall, but the teams really did trade periods of dominance. Perhaps Diego Valeri couldn’t go for 90 minutes after recovering from injury, but Portland certainly missed their talisman in the first half, and in a single-elimination format, that could have made the difference in the end. And with the Timbers’ season now over, the questions about Valeri’s future in Portland will re-emerge.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: The winning goal took a game destined for extra time and settled the score.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Savarino saved the best for last, but the Venezuelan, who’s made a habit of being the late game-changer, had a good shift punctuated by the all-important winner.
- RSL: Oct. 23 vs. Seattle Sounders, 10 pm ET (FS1) | Western Conference Semifinals, Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs
- POR: End of season