There was plenty on the line for both the Portland Timbers and RSL on Wednesday night
Most streaks come to an end, and on Wednesday night in Sandy, UT, two streaks indeed did just that. Real Salt Lake snapped a four-match losing streak in their 2-1 win over the Portland Timbers, while Portland’s five-match winning streak ended on the road after a sloppy first half of play.
RSL proves to be the Timbers kryptonite once again, after a 4-4 tie back in August that saw the club storm back from a 4-2 deficit in the 89′ to steal three points from Portland. Since then, a lot has happened. The Timbers have gone on to post a 6-2-1 record to vault them into a battle for the top of the western conference with Seattle.
While RSL went 2-6-2 in that same time frame, now fighting for a playoff spot with several teams ahead and behind them with many matches left to play. Still, Wednesday’s match came and went just as quick and one side looked a little more ready to break their streak come kickoff.
A quick turn around, fatigue, and mental lapses
With such a condensed season for clubs around MLS, starting players will obviously need to rest in between matches. The Timbers squad featured six new members to the starting IX on Wednesday, compared to who took to the field over the weekend. This included goalkeeper Aljaz Ivacic who took the place of Steve Clark between the sticks, who was presumably taking the night off to take a breather.
Ivacic made only his second MLS start yesterday against RSL, after a decent performance against San Jose earlier this month, which saw him concede one goal in a comfortable 6-1 Timbers onslaught. For those keeping track at home, there were no hugs between the Timber’s keeper and defensive line this time around, just miscommunication.
The first goal of the night came at only the 11′, started by a beautiful long ball by RSL’s Aaron Herrera to a sprinting Damir Kreilach who was then disrupted by an outstretched Ivacic who failed to corral the ball, instead of pushing it out to an open Douglas Martinez.
Ivacic, to his credit, went on to make a couple of more saves throughout the match. But further miscommunication on the backline led to the second RSL goal of the night, essentially their game-winner. When for a second time this season, an unmanned Damir Kreilach netted a goal in the 26′ off of a corner kick against the Timbers.
Little to no scoring from the Portland Timbers
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Coupled with the squad’s fatigue and fresh players to the starting line up, the Timber’s inability to start matches strongly over the past couple of fixtures really caught up to them Wednesday night.
Real Salt Lake was able to capitalize where the Quakes had not in the first half, with duels won and long balls creating foot races that the Timbers looked outmatched in early on.
Luckily for head coach Gio Saverese, the Timbers went into the locker room at the half looking tranquil and made adjustments as needed. They returned for the second half, with newfound energy and played a more effective game, but it may have been too late.
But a missed opportunity by Yimmi Chara just minutes after Tuiloma’s 77′ goal was about as close as the Timbers came to leveling things out before the final whistle blew. It was a tough end to an incredible five-match run that had some brilliant scoring performances, but Portland was too busy chasing the game in the second half to score a second time.
Real Salt Lake garnered a much needed 3 points
Wednesday night’s win has RSL situated right at the number nine spot in the western conference, which could be a very complicated part of the standings come season’s end. Behind them is Rocky Mountain Cup rivals, the Colorado Rapids with a tricky covid-19 situation. And ahead of them are a couple of other teams in FC Dallas and Minnesota United with postponed games still to play.
Nonetheless, this much needed 3 points has to be a great jumping-off point for them, with only four matches currently scheduled remaining before decision day comes November 8th, there is definitely some fine-tuning to be done in the coming days.
They do receive a likely very welcomed break before their next match against FC Dallas on October 24th, after their road match on Sunday against rivals Colorado was been postponed. FC Dallas has been dangerous this season, and the two clubs have yet to meet, so RSL better hope their winning momentum holds out ten days until then.
For the Timbers, they’ll head back home to welcome the previous last team to beat them over a month ago, LAFC. The club looks a little different at the moment, with injuries taking its toll on their starting IX, but that 2-4 loss on the road back in September has to still be on folks’ minds in Portland. Both sides will look to welcome back their winning ways in a late afternoon matchup on Sunday.