Real Salt Lake beat Timbers, 2-1
(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
By JOHN COON
SANDY, Utah (AP) Real Salt Lake is in rare territory.
Before this season, U.S. Open Cup matches were not synonymous with success for the MLS club. RSL experienced early exits more often than victories in the nation's oldest soccer tournament.
It has been a completely different story this time around, and Salt Lake took another big step to winning the cup Wednesday night. Alvaro Saborio scored once and assisted on Joao Plata's goal to lead RSL to a 2-1 victory over the Portland Timbers.
RSL will host DC United in the championship game Oct. 1 after United beat the Chicago Fire 2-0 earlier in the evening. The winner of the final will qualify for a spot in the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League.
Salt Lake started on the right foot by attacking relentlessly in the opening moments and it paid off with Saborio's goal in the 7th minute.
"Scoring early is big for us," RSL coach Jason Kreis said. "We reward ourselves from the momentum that we create at the beginning of the match. It is always important. We've done a good job of that lately."
Khari Stephenson forced a corner kick with a shot from distance to set up the scoring play. Following the corner kick, Kyle Beckerman sent a cross into Saborio on the left side of the 6-yard box. He then redirected a header back toward the right post and the ball bounced off the post and in.
"It was a very important goal because we needed to score early," Saborio said. "Kyle gave me a very good cross and I got in a good header."
Strong play from Nick Rimando kept Portland from answering in the first half. The Timbers got into scoring position several times, but came away empty after some clutch saves from Rimando.
The biggest came in the 40th minute when Will Johnson kicked a right-footer down the center of the box. It looked like a sure goal, but Rimando managed to poke the ball away with his fingertips at the last minute.
"I need to figure out what he's eating so I can eat the same thing," Kreis said.
Ryan Johnson had another good chance for Portland when he uncorked a header during first-half stoppage time. The ball bounced off the left post.
Portland did all the things it needed to do to be in control by halftime. The Timbers dominated possession. They created more shots and put the RSL defense on its heels more often. But finding the finishing touch was a problem.
Still, Portland coach Caleb Porter saw some positive trends his team can take back into league play.
"Possession doesn't win you games," Porter said. "Shots don't win you games. But if you look at those trends and the stats of how we're playing in the flow of the game, there's not major issues. There's not major things to be alarmed with."
Salt Lake finally got another goal from Plata in the 78th minute. Saborio flicked the ball up to Plata outside the top of the box and the reserve forward sent it right back down the middle.
RSL has scored 13 goals in four Open Cup matches, the best rate of any team in the tournament.
Portland cut the lead in half in the 90th minute. Rimando blocked a shot from Diego Valeri and Valeri collected it on the rebound. He headed the ball back over Rimando's head to bring the Timbers within striking distance.
It was too little too late for Portland, which saw its franchise-best run in the U.S. Open Cup end. Now the attention for the Timbers shifts to qualifying for the MLS playoffs.
"We're disappointed, but at the end of the day we still have everything to play for in the league," Porter said. "This loss doesn't change that."
Updated August 8, 2013