Real Salt Lake put a struggling Portland Timbers side further in the doldrums with a 4-2 win featuring two early goals and four different goalscorers for the home victors.
The match started as well as anyone could have hoped when Joao Plata flicked a pass from Kyle Beckerman perfectly into the path of Luis Gil, whose run into the box saw him just on the right side. He placed a low shot at the far post, leaving Portland goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts with nary a chance.
Joao Plata continued the momentum only five minutes later when Ned Grabavoy played him into a fine position on the left side of the box; Plata's tricky run saw the two defenders unable to match his ability, and the 21-year-old Ecuadorian finished — surprise, surprise — at the far post from a difficult angle, with the ball rebounding off the post and across the goal line.
The first half wasn't without its drama, though, and it rather started in the 30th minute when Michael Harrington intercepted a ball switched to RSL's right flank, and Darlington Nagbe was the benefactor of the counterattacking play. Nat Borchers stood too far off Nagbe and Chris Wingert abandoned his marking of him to follow a runner on the flank, and as a result, Nagbe saw an opportunity for a shot and took it smoothly past Rimando from the edge of the box.
With the scoreline 2-1, Real Salt Lake were the benefactor of a first-half stoppage-time red card to Timbers midfielder Ben Zemanski, who went in with his studs showing and knee-high into Ned Grabavoy. It was a textbook red card challenge, with Zemanski having just let the ball get away from him and desperation setting in, but despite initially looking like he was going in for a fine challenge, he lifted his foot a significant amount to not only miss the ball, but make flagrant contact with Grabavoy.
Only 10 minutes into the first half, the match took a turn to the spectacular, with Javier Morales sending home a bicycle kick goal from a corner kick. His first touch from Plata's corner was poor and put him in a difficult position, but his reaction — with no players in proximity — to turn himself over in the air was inventive, and his finish into the top-left corner of the goal was sublime. Leading 3-1, mounting a comeback seemed too far for the Timbers.
Finishing off RSL's scoring was Alvaro Saborio, whose headed goal from Javier Morales's free kick was as fine a goal as he's scored. It was his 50th regular season goal for Real Salt Lake, a milestone that shouldn't be ignored.
The match wasn't quite over yet, and Timbers' Sal Zizzo picked up a Nick Rimando rebound and slotted home with the defense awfully unaware of the situation. But in the 77th minute, there was no innate risk of a loss, but it can't be encouraging to concede another poor goal late in the match.