Man of the Match: Alvaro Saborio made this an easy choice, his two great headers and conversion from the spot, accounting for all of Real Salt Lake’s scoring. That’s not to say he didn’t get help, but given the quality of his finishes, RSL’s leading scorer deserves a lion’s share of the credit.
The first goal (breaking a scoreless, second half deadlock) saw Saborio beat the previously unbeatable Futty Danso, heading a ball into the lower right hand corner that barely eluded Troy Perkins. Taking advantage of some poor defending by Steve Smith, Saborio doubled RSL’s lead two minutes later (62′). Late, Saborio made sure Diego Chara’s red card-inducing save went for naught, scoring his 10th goal of the season – completing his hat trick.
Packaged for takeaway:
- Real Salt Lake dominated throughout, with John Spencer’s 4-3-3 turned 4-5-1 aiding the cause. With only one forward (Danny Mwanga) providing no pressure on the defense, RSL spent the first half completing long balls down their left, bypassing the five-man midfield.
- The formation switch saw new right back Kosuke Kimura make his Portland debut, with captain Jack Jewsbury moved back into midfield, designated player Kris Boyd given the night off. Don’t expect that to continue. Spencer has previously said his captain will be in his team, provoking two questions: (a) where, and (b) in place of whom? It’s unlikely Boyd will be to odd man out.
- At the onset, however, Portland’s formation and selection were less of an issue than environment. Goalkeeper Troy Perkins was standing in the only sunny spot on the field, leaving shots at his goal coming literally out of the dark. Real Salt Lake tested him early and often, but despite some precarious results, Perkins was able to carry his clean sheet into half time.
- Switching ends did no good. Real Salt Lake continued dominating the second, though instead of passing over the Portland midfield, they moved straight through them. By match’s end, Saborio had given the game an appropriate final score.
- There was one point of concern for RSL: Midfielder Ned Grabavoy had to leave early in the first half after a sliding collision with a teammate saw his left leg injured. Luis Gil came on and completed the match.
- Diego Chara, just returning from suspension, will get another, seeing straight red for an intentional hand ball that temporarily kept Saborio from his hat trick. Portland’s midfield holder may see additional sanction from the league office, with a late, yellow card-drawing tackle on Javier Morales dangerous enough for review.
- For Portland, the match continued the team’s road woes, and while their new defender made his debut, the Timbers may have swapped one problem for another. Kimura addresses the team’s lack of width, but bringing uncertainty to a team that had clawed its way back into playoff contention, the trade may have rocked the boat.
- For Real Salt Lake, there isn’t much to take from the match. Saborio had a strong night, and everybody else performed well, but against a feckless opponent with an uncertain selection and formation, it’s the least a title-contender could have done.