Real Salt Lake loses second in a row, 2-1 to Portland Timbers

Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune Real Salt Lake defender Nedum Onuoha (14) line drivs Portland Timbers defender Larrys Mabiala (33) on a corner kick. Real Salt Lake hosts the Portland Timbers, Saturday, May 4, 2019 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Salt Lake City.

Sandy • Sam Johnson didn’t want to talk to about his goal.

The Real Salt Lake striker brought in to help the team’s attack did what he’s paid to do Saturday against the Portland Timbers, but it wasn’t enough in the 2-1 loss at Rio Tinto Stadium.

When asked to describe the sequence that led to his third goal of the season, he instead talked about went wrong for RSL, which lost its second straight game and second at home this season.

“I’m not really happy scoring a goal,” Johnson said. “Of course it’s good to score a goal, but I think we have lost too many games in the league. Sometimes, I feel sorry for the fans.”

Coach Mike Petke was equally despondent over how his team played. He said one aspect of the loss was simply that the Timbers finished more chances than Salt Lake. But that wasn’t the reason why RSL put together another frustrating game at home.

“We weren’t clean enough on the ball tonight,” Petke said. “We didn’t play forward soccer. We didn’t break lines.”

Petke took the blame for his team’s performance, saying maybe his training sessions throughout the week were not geared toward what he mentioned.

“It comes down to me,” Petke said.

When Johnson explained what he thought happened, he said it came down to speed, or lack thereof.

“Tonight’s game I think we tried to play too slow,” Johnson said. “We were too slow to pass the ball. … We have to be fast.”

RSL was called offsides eight times in the game, and a few of those calls came against Johnson. Petke said the ball didn’t get to him fast enough at times.

Midfielder Alberto Rusnák thought the reason for the slow play had to do with Portland sitting deep in its defense.

“It created difficult moments for us in the game,” Rusnák said.

Johnson’s goal tied the game in the 62nd minute after Salt Lake had given up one in the first half. What ensued in the next six minutes was a woken-up RSL attack trying ferociously to pick up a second goal.

Rusnák said that after Johnson tied the game, the feeling was much like against the L.A. Galaxy, when Real equalized and appeared to be the better team before conceding another goal that eventually closed the door on a comeback.

“I didn’t feel like after 1-1 that we became sloppy or anything leading up to the goal,” Rusnák said. “I feel like we were creating chances, we were on the front foot, and then the ball, it deflected and came to their guy who scored a goal. So definitely the goal was the setback again for us.”

Portland’s goal that Rusnák referenced came in the 68th minute when Sebastian Blanco’s shot was blocked, but the rebound went right to Diego Valeri, who launched a shot past the helpless RSL keeper Andrew Putna for the 2-1 score line.

RSL had the opportunity to take an early lead after Jefferson Savarino attempted a cross in the box that was ruled a hand ball. Rusnák’s ensuing penalty was saved by Timbers keeper Steve Clark, who tallied six saves on the evening — none more crucial than that one.

“We had a goal-scoring opportunity and we didn’t score,” Petke said. “Didn’t feel good. A little bit of momentum loss there and then they score.”