SANDY, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – Real Salt Lake lost just two games at home all of last season. Through the first 10 games of 2019, they already have dropped two game at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Diego Valeri scored the go-ahead goal for the Portland Timbers in the 68th minute, as RSL lost for the sixth time in its last eight games, 2-1.
“We weren’t clean enough on the ball tonight, we didn’t play forward soccer, we didn’t break lines, and it comes down to me in training all week,” said head coach Mike Petke. “Perhaps I didn’t demand enough, perhaps some of my training sessions weren’t geared towards that.”
RSL had a chance to take the early lead in the 26th minute when they were awarded a penalty kick off a hand ball by Zarek Valentin.
But Steve Clark made a sprawling save on the PK attempt by Albert Rusnak, keeping the game scoreless.
“It was a good save,” Rusnak said. “I should have aimed a lot higher. It didn’t go in and it would have been good if we got that first goal. It would have calmed us down, but we still brought ourselves back through the difficult times.”
Portland broke through in the 34th minute when Sebastian Blanco reounded his own shot and blasted it past Andrew Putna, who was making his third straight start in goal in place of the injured Nick Rimando, to give the Timbers a 1-0 lead at the half.
“Of course, it hurts, of course it hurts,” Petke said. “We had a goal-scoring opportunity and we didn’t score. Didn’t feel good. A little bit of momentum lost there and then they scored.”
RSL leveled the match in the 62nd minute as Sam Johnson took a heel flick pass from Corey Baird and scored his third goal of the season.
“For every opportunity, I have to make the most of it, because in every game I only get one,” said a frustrated Johnson. “Maybe a maximum of two. If I have one and get one will be difficult.”
But just six minutes later, Valeri hit a brilliant shot through the legs of one defender and just inside the far post to give Portland a 2-1 lead.
Valeri became the ninth player in MLS history with 70 goals and 70 assists in regular-season play.
RSL had a few chances to earn a point at home, but could not convert. Sebastian Saucedo almost found the equalizer, but Clark deflected his shot around the post for one of his six saves.
“Last year, we were virtually unbeatable at home and we’ve had a bit of a slow start, dropping two at home and a couple of tough road games,” Petke said. “There’s a long season ahead, but tonight they were more clinical than us and they were very organized and we just couldn’t penetrate.”
“I mean it’s frustrating that we lost another game at home,” added Rusnak. “We were one of the best teams in the whole league last year, especially at home, and that’s where our strength is. It’s frustrating to see the second loss now in four home games if I’m correct. That’s definitely not good enough but it’s even more frustrating the fact that they are right there in the table right behind us, and it’s a direct opponent in our conference. It’s definitely a frustrating result.”
Real Salt Lake drops to 3-6-1 on the year, 2-2-0 at home, and falls below the playoff line in the Western Conference.
They next hit the road next Saturday at Colorado in the first leg of the Rocky Mountain Cup.