Portland Timbers vs. Real Salt Lake
March 31, 2012
Weather: 51F Heavy Showers
The Timbers came into this game - after only obtaining 1 point from their opening two away games this season - knowing that they will have to maintain good home form if they are going to make a claim for a playoff spot in a western conference packed with talent. They must improve away but it's equally crucial to ensure that home form is solid as Portland looks to build on a decent 1st season in the MLS. March has been the wettest on record here in Portland and after a deluge of rain over the past few days; it was almost refreshing to only have intermittent showers in the downtown area for this important game against the talented Real Salt Lake.
The early exchanges were pretty even with the Timbers looking comfortable on the ball but Real Salt Lake were showing that they are pretty dangerous going forward themselves. The biggest moment of the first 20 minutes came on 17 minutes when Darlington Nagbe should have been allowed the advantage to play on after a foul on Perlaza by the half-way line. Nagbe would have been clean through on goal had the advantage been played but referee Mark Geiger decided to blow for the foul instead. This was very poor refereeing indeed and coach John Spencer was incensed at the decision down on the touchline.
With the Timbers Army in full voice on this blustery March evening, the Timbers continued to push for the opening goal with Nagbe often looking dangerous and some decent balls whipped in, especially from Rodney Wallace down the left hand side. Real Salt Lake had a spate of corners in the first half themselves that they often looked dangerous from but Jewsbury and Chara began to dominate the midfield in the middle and latter stages of the first half as the Timbers sought the first goal in the teaming rain.
Jorge Perlaza missed a terrific opportunity on 31 minutes as he was put clean through by Chara. He rounded the keeper but lost his balance and couldn't finish from a fairly acute angle. Real Salt Lake were awarded a penalty in the 38th minute as Rodney Wallace made a clumsy attempt to stop Ned Grabavoy from being through one on one with Troy Perkins and he ended up handling the ball as it bounced up off the wet turf. Alvaro Saborio calmly slotted the penalty away sending Troy Perkins the wrong way. 0-1 RSL Goal.
The Timbers almost immediately struck back when Kris Boyd laid off a chance to Jorge Perlaza who couldn't find the target with his volley that was to be fair, tricky to control. As the whistle blew for half-time it was clear that John Spencer had to remind the Timbers of their home opener against Philadelphia Union where they came from a goal down to win 3-1. Real Salt Lake are a more talented side though, and it was going to be a tougher proposition to pull that kind of result out of the bag.
Half-Time: Portland Timbers 0-1 Real Salt Lake
Within 4 minutes of the restart the Timbers were level when Darlington Nagbe skipped around Kyle Beckerman and hammered the ball low into the bottom left hand corner of the goal for a sensational goal. 1-1 Timbers Goal. It was obvious that John Spencer demanded more tempo from his team but this attacking mentality left Portland open to the RSL breakaways and with better composure, Real Salt Lake could've found themselves back ahead shortly after the Timbers equalizer with Saborio even hitting the post on 52 mins.
The game was now open and pretty end to end and the Timbers began to calm down and get some possession going and it was Nagbe again who stung the palms of Nick Rimando when he struck from the edge of the penalty area from a cutback after some wonderful skill from Eric Alexander on the left hand side. On 63 minutes John Spencer decided to bring on Frank Songo'o for his home debut in place of the rather disappointing Jorge Perlaza as the Timbers looked to complete the comeback and oh my goodness Darlington Nagbe within 60 seconds produced another incredible finish this time with a beauty of a volley that dipped over a stranded Rimando. 2-1 Timbers Goal
Real Salt Lake were still looking dangerous on the break and Ned Grabavoy went close on 75 minutes as he fired just wide of Troy Perkins left hand post from just outside the area when put through. The Timbers though were by now dominating possession and slowing the game down with a more measured passing approach, showing a little more technical ability while keeping the ball. Into the last ten minutes though and the Timbers started to give away possession and silly free kicks and in the 89th minute Jonny Steele placed the ball around Troy Perkins to equalize after the Timbers gave the ball away unnecessarily again in midfield. 2-2 RSL Goal.
Just when they thought it was all over and there would be a share of the points, RSL completed an astonishing comeback with a Kyle Beckerman sucker punch in the final minute of injury time as he volleyed home from just outside the box to steal the points. 2-3 RSL Goal. It was truly a smash and grab and quite honestly, the Timbers deserved something out of this game but only had themselves to blame for not seeing the match out.
Full Time: Portland Timbers 2-3 Real Salt Lake
Goals: RSL Saborio 39 mins (Pen), POR Nagbe 49 mins, POR Nagbe 65 mins, RSL 89 mins, RSL Beckerman 93 mins.
After a frustrating first half which saw opportunities missed, dodgy refereeing decisions and some excellent play on the break by Real Salt Lake, the Timbers upped the tempo in the second half and did what they do best, attack in swash-buckling style with all blood, guts, and thunder. The two strikes from Darlington Nagbe world truly World Class and it was his magic that almost won the match for the Timbers in a game where Kris Boyd and Jorge Perlaza were clearly not at their best. The mistake from Rodney Wallace that led to the Real Salt Lake opener was down to a lack of communication where he was the only defender that decided not to play for offside and it was one of many mistakes at home that proved to be costly.
There is no doubt that the Timbers can steamroll teams when they really go at them but they need to be a little better at seeing out games when they go ahead as they started to give away free kicks in the last 10 minutes when they needed to slow the game down and keep possession. Real Salt Lake were allowed back into the game through sloppy play and the Timbers gave the ball away too often in the closing stages. Real did not deserve to win this game but they often looked dangerous on the break and in the end they pulled out the shock victory in the final minutes when Portland really should have seen this one out for the home victory. Timbers grade D+: Needs to improve. .
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World Football Daily Portland Timbers Correspondent.