Johnson aims to get Portland ready for battle against Seattle. Can the Timbers keep calm and bag a win?

ProSoccerTalk’s MLS Player of the Week: Portland Timbers’ midfielder Will Johnson

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On the one hand, you look at Real Salt Lake’s young, talented midfield and you understand why they would need to make such a painful choice, to cut ties with well-liked midfielder Will Johnson and his relatively high, veteran salary. That happened late last year.

On the other hand, this man is flat out getting it done these days for the Portland Timbers, a two-way force that seems utterly indispensable for new manager Caleb Porter and his ongoing style makeover around Jeld-Wen Field.

Never was that more evident than Saturday, when Johnson’s leadership as well as his two strikes were so essential in a huge result in the Timbers’ young season.

Colorado had a two-goal lead at home in the 48th minutes. Two goals. On the road. Generally speaking, that is that. Most visitors begin licking their wounds at that point, conserving energy for better chances ahead to collect points.

Johnson scored on goal to get his side within strike distance. Then the Canadian international confidently slammed home a penalty kick to complete the comeback in Portland’s 2-2 tie.

What the Timbers’ veteran midfield man said about going down 2-0 on the road:

It was a bigger hole than we thought that we were going to have to climb, a bigger mountain. When those things happen, they happen so quickly that you don’t have time to analyze it, and get down, and say, “now we need two”. You just have to focus one goal at a time. 2-0 is I think the most dangerous lead in soccer because as soon as you get one, you’re flying, and you’re coming right down their throat, and the other team usually can’t handle it. We knew if we were able to get the first one, that that was the hardest one, and that we’d be able to get a second.”

Other Timbers performed well enough in the draw, but Johnson clearly was The Man according to Timbers fans. In online voting through Facebook, he received 80 percent of the check marks for Portland Man of the Match.

And the clevers from Stumptown Footy obviously recognized Johnson’s potent contributions as the Timbers remained undefeated on the road (over just two matches, but still …).

(MORE: ProSoccerTalk’s MLS Team of the Week for round 5)

MLS Snapshot: Colorado Rapids 1-2 Real Salt Lake

SANDY UT - MARCH 14: Olmes Garcia #13 of Real Salt Lake celebrates his goal during their game against the Philadelphia Union at Rio Tinto Stadium on March 14, 2015 in Sandy, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
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The game in 100 words (or less): Real Salt Lake stays alive in the hunt for a playoff berth in the Western Conference with a crucial 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids. After falling behind early, RSL scored twice before halftime and held onto the lead for the rest of the match, moving within three points of the final playoff spot in the West. Real Salt Lake has three matches remaining, including a massive clash against the Portland Timbers, which will pretty much decide their season. For Colorado, it’s another year without playoff soccer.

[ MORE: FC Dallas clinches playoff berth ]

Three moments that mattered

16′ — Doyle heads Colorado into the lead — The former Premier League man gave the home side an early lead, thanks to a powerful header from quite a bit out. Sean St. Ledger played in a cross, where Doyle snapped a header into the top corner past Nick Rimando.

33′ — Joao Plata bends in the free kick — Trailing 1-0, Joao Plata drew RSL level with a brilliant free kick. Plata’s shot dipped over the wall and under the crossbar, as Clint Irwin stood helpless in goal for Colorado.

43′ — Mulholland fires home a volley to put RSL ahead — Luke Mulholland scored his first goal of the season, and it was a beauty. A corner kick popped out to the midfielder at the top of the box, as he rifled a shot off the bounce and into the side netting.

Man of the match: Luke Mulholland

Goalscorers: Doyle (16′), Plata (33′), Mulholland (43′)

Wenger lauds team spirit following Arsenal’s big win

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Arsenal put on a superb performance against Manchester United today, flying out to a three-goal lead in the opening 20 minutes of the match.

[ RECAP: Arsenal 3-0 Manchester United ]

United was stunned by the fast-paced, free-flowing Arsenal attack, unable to recover from the Gunners’ early dominance.

All of this came on the heels of a disappointing loss to Olympiacos in the Champions League, after which many questioned manager Arsene Wenger and his side.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from Arsenal’s win vs. Manchester United ]

Following the big 3-0 win at the Emirates, Wenger praised his team’s spirit, saying there were outstanding performances throughout the side.

You go from Petr Cech up to Theo Walcott, and we had only outstanding performances. Sometimes we have that magic side in our game.

[Against Olympiacos] maybe we lacked a little bit of urgency and discipline, and that’s why we lost the game. But let’s not forget, last Saturday we won 5-2 at Leicester. Today we beat Man United 3-0.

[The players] have shown that we have an outstanding spirit in the squad. To respond the way we did after what happened to us, you need to have an exceptional spirit.

The Gunners’ performance today immediately silenced all the critics, as Wenger’s side put out on a display that many have been waiting for all season. The combination play of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott was brilliant, as Santi Cazorla continued to impress in the center of the midfield.

Wenger’s teams have not always been known to show strong heart and resiliency, but that’s exactly what they showed today against a Manchester United side that was in great form. Now sitting second on the table, Arsenal continues to climb up the Premier League.