Well I thought this would be an exciting match and sure enough it provided lots of excitement and both sides could have ended up with more goals than what actually ended up in the back of the net and on the scoreboard. It was really a match of two halves to me, with RSL dominating the first half and the Timbers battling back in the second half. RSL was without their leading scorer Alvaro Saborio, but both Fabian Espindola and Javier Morales picked up the team and put them on their back with two first half goals. Then it was hang on time as a very game Timbers side were able to find some energy at half time and get a Bright Dike goal in the 61st minute to get themselves back in the match, but RSL was able to hold on despite losing much of the stat battle at home.
It isn't often an opposing side out passes RSL at home or away but the Timbers did just that with 458 passes to RSL's 435, both teams were very sharp and completed 84% of their passes on the night, that slight advantage in passes allowed the Timbers to win the possession battle 51.6% to 48.4%. RSL did take more shots, 13 to 11 but both sides had 5 on target in the match. It was Nick Rimando with a couple saves that will like be up for save of the week. The match was called evenly with just 17 fouls called on the night, and only one yellow card, Jamison Olave, which means he will miss RSL's next match for yellow card accumulation.
Real Salt Lake got their 15th win of the season and became just the 2nd team in MLS history (post shootout) to record 15 wins in 3 straight seasons, DC United did it first in 2005-07, and likely before the night is over the LA galaxy will join that list as well. RSL also secured their spot in the playoffs and depending on how the other matches tonight go (LA vs Toronto & Seattle vs San Jose) RSL could end up anywhere from 2nd to staying in 4th in the Western Conference, so there is still work to be done by RSL.
So on the night a couple of guys really impressed me, first up is our duo up top of Fabian Espindola and Paulo Jr., both were all over the pitch applying pressure on both sides of the ball, and it was a shame that Paulo Jr. wasn't able to find the back of the net, he missed a couple of chances just by inches. Then there was Javier Morales and Ned Grabavoy, Javi was as aggressive and dynamic as I have seen him this year, and Ned was great on both sides of the ball and was unfortunate not to get a goal for himself.
On defense it was nice to see Jamison Olave back in action, he was needed as the Timbers applied some great pressure that had to be dealt with, I thought Tony Beltran had a very solid night as well both getting forward and on the defensive side. It was a bit strange seeing him battle with David Horst, but that is the nature of MLS as players often have to face off against former teammates and friends.
The star of the night was Nick Rimando, he made a couple of amazing saves, which is fairly normal for Nick but continue to amaze those of us with the pleasure of watching him. Just another great performance in goal, and one of the reasons RSL has been so successful over the last 5 years.
OK, that is enough for now, I have to imagine that the fine folks of NBC Sports had to be happy with a great sellout crowd (the 9th of the year for RSL) and a very exciting match to broadcast.
OFF MY SOAPBOX