As a female quartet sung the national anthem before the game, Real Salt Lake captain Kyle Beckerman’s teeth chattered. Fans sat and braved the gusts of wind and the stinging rain while wearing red ponchos.
But when the whistle sounded and the ball was kicked off, none of the conditions mattered.
RSL came out guns a-blazing as the rain turned to snow and back into rain in the 38-degree air. The fans at Rio Tinto stadium were as loud as they’ve been all season, erupting into cheers, oohs and aahs with every RSL shot on goal and save by Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark.
And when Damir Kreilach scored in the 28th minute, he hugged a group of fans decked out in thick black overcoats to celebrate them with them, creating what may have been the warmest spot on the field in the moment.
RSL announces team’s end-of-year awards
At halftime of the game, the club announced four awards given to players at the end of the season, as voted on by the entire roster.
Everton Luiz, who joined the club just this season, was named RSL’s Most Valuable Player. The defensive midfielder was brought in to replace the outgoing Sunday Stephen and performed formidably throughout the year.
Albert Rusnák won the Golden Boot Award, given to the leading scorer. He scored 10 goals in the regular season, five of which on came on penalty shots.
Second-year right back Aaron Herrera was named Defender of the Year. He played mostly at left back last season, but won the spot this year and has been a regular starter since.
Lastly, Beckerman was named Humanitarian of the Year. It’s the second consecutive season Beckerman has received that honor.
Valeri starts on bench for Portland
After participating fully in training the days leading up to Saturday, Portland’s best and perhaps most dynamic player began the game on the bench.
Diego Valeri entered the game in the 63rd minute, replacing Jeremy Ebobisse. Dairon Esprilla started in Valeri’s palace.
Valeri had started all but one playoff game in his Timbers career since 2013 before Saturday.
Valeri missed the final two games of the Timbers season due to a calf injury. Recently, however, contract negotiations between he and the club had stalled.