Sandy • Ownage is ownage.
Real Salt Lake has had it since the Portland Timbers entered Major League Soccer in 2011. RSL knows it, and if the Timbers don’t know it by now, someone’s going to have to explain the meaning.
In yet another showdown between the Western Conference rivals, RSL again laughed last — as it so often has against the Timbers — in the 1-0 win Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy. RSL, still the lone unbeaten club in Major League Soccer at 3-0-4, ran another unbeaten streak against the Timbers to 11 consecutive matches across all competitions after going 4-0-2 against them in 2013.
So how has RSL managed to continually unlock one of the best teams in MLS?
“I can’t really explain it,” said RSL captain Kyle Beckerman. “We expect to win every game at home.”
Once more, RSL tormented the Timbers at Rio Tinto.
With each side having predicated its style on possession, on free-flowing build-ups and calculated attacks, Saturday night’s display showed no cracks in the foundation of two talented sides.
In the end, after the shots clanked off the post and close-calls sailed wide, it came down to one shot and one goalkeeper. Ned Grabavoy’s shot and Nick Rimando.
Grabavoy was given time and space by the Portland midfield to wander toward the Timbers box in the 78th minute and when he decided to fire, his left-footed shot just inside the box sliced toward the far post and away from Portland’s Donovan Ricketts.
“It seemed like we were kind of fighting our way through [the game], trying to battle ... almost battle our way into the goal any way we could,” Grabavoy said.
It was only later that Rimando, already called on multiple times earlier on in the match, would have his moment — several moments, rather. In the 85th minute, Portland substitute Alvas Powell utilized his speed to get one-on-one with Rimando, but his point-blank shot was sent wayward by a Rimando kick save.
Three minutes later, Gaston Fernandez struck a curling, left-footed shot drifting for the far post. But Rimando rose to the occasion. The RSL goalkeeper skied, extended his arm and, once again, kept the Timbers at bay.
“The last 15 to 20 minutes, Nick makes some unbelievable saves to secure three points,” Grabavoy said. “Almost two or three of them, I’m literally getting ready to turn back with my head down to walk back to the half line.”
Grabavoy didn’t need to. Rimando’s first game back after missing the previous two outings with a strained MCL in his left knee exuded no rust. While the late saves will be remembered most, he stopped a one-on-one opportunity by Portland’s Darlington Nagbe in the 19th minute, pushing a shot to the near post over.
“I just think it’s normal now,” Beckerman said.
The result awarded RSL with three points, but Portland had its chances. Forward Maxi Urruti had three opportunities in a three-minute span that resulted in a shot hitting the post, another mishandling of a cross by Diego Valeri and a third pushed wide when he was in on Rimando.
The Timbers left Rio Tinto winless, now at 0-3-4, and RSL celebrated another win over the team its accustomed to doing quite well against.
“We wanted three points in this game and we were pushing and pushing and pushing,” RSL coach Jeff Cassar said.
RSL 1, Timbers 0
Portland 0 0 — 0
Real Salt Lake 0 1 — 1
First half—No scoring.
Second half— 1, Real Salt Lake, Grabavoy 1 (Morales), 78th minute.
Goalies—Portland, Donovan Ricketts Real Salt Lake, Nick Rimando.
Yellow Cards—Danso, Portland, 33rd.
Referee—Drew Fischer. Assistant Referees—Daniel Belleau. Jeff Hosking. 4th Official—Allen Chapman.
Portland— Donovan Ricketts, Michael Harrington, Mamadou Danso, Pa-Modou Kah, Diego Valeri (Gaston Fernandez, 61st), Diego Chara, Kalif Alhassan (Michael Nanchoff, 76th), Jack Jewsbury (Alvas Powell, 83rd), Darlington Nagbe, Will Johnson, Maximiliano Urruti.
Sporting Kansas City—Nick Rimando, Chris Schuler, Tony Beltran, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert, Luke Mulholland (Sebastian Velasquez, 67th), Ned Grabavoy, Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Olmes Garcia (Joao Plata, 67th), Alvaro Saborio (Devon Sandoval, 90th+).