Real Salt Lake tops Portland 3-2 after late flurry
MLS • Two quick goals in the waning minutes give the visiting team an improbable victory.
Published: April 1, 2012 12:31AM
Updated: April 1, 2012 12:39AM
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Real Salt Lake defender Jamison Olave, right, heads the ball away from Portland Timbers midfielder Franck Songo'o during the second half of their MLS soccer game in Portland, Ore., in March. Real Salt Lake won 3-2. The teams meet again Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

Portland, Ore. • Real Salt Lake was consistently rebuffed. With the rain, the rabble-rousers and what felt like an inevitable result, Kyle Beckerman said Saturday’s game at Portland felt much like last year’s loss here.

But with 80 minutes left and his team down one, Jason Kreis turned to his bench and said, “I have a feeling we’re going to score.”

“I tend not to get too greedy,” Kreis said later. “I thought one would probably be enough and I’d be happy to walk out of here with a [point].”

Yet, not even the optimistic RSL coach could have predicted the manner in which his team would score a 3-2 win in front of 20,438 at Jeld-Wen Field.

Reserve veteran midfielder Jonny Steele sneaked into the box in the 89th minute and struck his first MLS goal.

It was in the 93rd minute that Beckerman turned an unexpected draw into an unbelievable victory.

He waited atop the penalty box. Fabian Espindola scooped a chip and Beckerman struck it before it hit the ground. The result was a low, laser-like shot into the net.

“I think we felt like we were going to get the winner,” Beckerman said.

But after the manner in which RSL wasted an early lead, Portland seemed set to remain undefeated at home this season. Jeld-Wen has already been labeled the toughest place for opponents to play. RSL lost 1-0 here last spring after a late first-half goal by the Timbers.

Saturday’s game took a much different tone early. It was RSL who took a 1-0 lead in the 39th minute when Álvaro Saborío scored his first goal of the season on a penalty kick. The attempt was earned after a handball was called on Portland’s Eric Brunner as midfielder Ned Grabavoy tried to loft the ball past him.

That Saborío scored was fitting. He led a group of RSL stars who returned to the team’s lineup.

He and midfielder Morales made their first starts of the season, while defender Nat Borchers, fresh off two reserve appearances, made his season debut.

The great irony of the night, then, was that with the game on the line and RSL’s most reliable players on the field, it was a little-known reserve playing for his 14th team that nearly came away as the hero.

The 26-year-old Steele a year ago was playing in the NASL with the Carolina RailHawks, and RSL signed the left-footed attacking midfielder in the offseason. Talk about return on investment.

“Supposedly he scored a lot of goals in his day,” Beckerman said. “He’s an older [26]. That’s what we needed tonight.”

Portland took control in the second half behind two goals from second-year midfielder Darlington Nagbe.

The second overall pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft scored as many goals Saturday as he did in all his rookie season.

The first came in the 48th minute, a low laser that sneaked inside the near post, the second coming in the 65th, when he volleyed the ball to himself and lofted it above and to the left of an outstretched Nick Rimando.