Real Salt Lake scores two late goals to salvage 4-4 tie with Portland

Real Salt Lake forward Corey Baird, right, scores past Portland Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark, left,during the first half of an MLS soccer match in Portland, Ore., Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020. P Photo/Steve Dykes)

Real Salt Lake forward Justin Meram, right puts a shot on goal as Portland Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark and forward Jeremy Ebobisse, center, defend and Timbers defender Larrys Mabiala looks at the ball at his feet during the first half of an MLS soccer match in Portland, Ore., Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)

Real Salt Lake’s duck looked cooked, down two goals with just five minutes left in the game.

But RSL put away two of its own in the final five minutes — most of it was stoppage time — to come away with a 4-4 tie against the Portland Timbers on Saturday night at a fanless Providence Park.

RSL forward Corey Baird said the comeback showed a lot of character.

“To be two goals down when, I think, for the majority if not the entire game we were the better team, it could be really tough mentally,” said Baird, who had a goal and an assist. “But for us to keep going and not give up, it just shows the character everyone has.”

Just two days ago, it was unclear whether Salt Lake and Portland would play their scheduled game after RSL and LAFC decided not to play their game Wednesday in support of other sports leagues protesting the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

But the game went on as scheduled and made for an enthralling evening of soccer.

RSL trailed 3-2 and was inches away from an equalizer late in the game when Nedum Onuoha took a shot from deep in the box that hit the post and was grabbed by Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark. A quick counter by the Timbers culminated in Felipe Mora seemingly putting the game away in the 85th minute.

But subs Giuseppe Rossi and Sam Johnson saved RSL and helped earned the team a point.

Rossi, who hasn’t played much this season, scored his first goal of his Major League Soccer career — and it came in the 90th minute. That goal put RSL in a position to get the next one.

Johnson found the back of the net in the 94th, prompting a huge celebration on the RSL bench.

“I felt people grab me,” coach Freddy Juarez said. “I don’t know where it was coming from.”

RSL got off 29 shots in the game, tying a club record. It shot 18 times in the first half, which is the most in any first half in club history. The 18 shots also ties a record for shots in any half.

RSL has scored eight goals in the last two games.

Four goals is the most Salt Lake has conceded in the 2020 regular season. It gave up five to the San Jose Earthquakes in the first knockout round game of the MLS is Back Tournament, which did not count toward the 2020 standings.

“It doesn’t happen very often,” Juarez said. “This team has pride in keeping the [ball] out of the net. We’ll get better from that.”

Portland’s two first-half goals came in preventable situations, defensively speaking. RSL felt those two goals in particular were “cheap” and “silly.”

The first came from Diego Chara after he dispossessed RSL midfielder Pablo Ruiz deep in the backfield. The second, a corner kick Jaroslaw Niezgoda finished with a header.

“We gave away some goals today,” Juarez said.

Midfielder Albert Rusnák was measured in his assessment of Saturday’s draw against Portland.

“There’s a lot of positives to take out from tonight’s game,” Rusnák said. “But on the other side, there’s a lot of stuff that we have to learn from.”