PORTLAND (ABC4 Sports) – Real Salt Lake went into Sunday’s game against Portland with the chance to clinch a playoff spot.
They are leaving Portland with their playoff hopes in serious jeopardy.
The Timbers got goals from Larrys Mabiala, Diego Chara and Sebastian Blanco, and a fantastic performance in goal from Steve Clark, to shut out Real Salt Lake Sunday afternoon, 3-0.
Coupled with the L.A. Galaxy’s 3-1 victory over Minnesota, RSL must now get help from Houston next Sunday in order to make the MLS playoffs.
If Houston defeats or ties the Galaxy, Real Salt Lake is in. But if the Galaxy win, and they will be heavy favorites to do so, RSL will be eliminated from contention. Head coach Mike Petke was not optimistic.
“One-in-a-million chance now,” Petke said.
“Yeah, it’s disappointing,” said RSL captain Kyle Beckerman. “We had a really good feeling this week, coming in. Good practice. We just weren’t able to get it done on the weekend. It’s not a good place to be. We’re going to be the biggest Houston Dynamo fans there’s ever been and we’ll be rooting them on and hopefully they can help us out.”
RSL could have clinched a playoff spot with a victory over Portland, but the Timbers struck first in the 15th minute when Mabiala booted in a perfect pass off of a set piece from Diego Valeri.
Portland then scored two goals in a five minute span in the 63rd and 68th minutes to put the game away.
RSL had plenty of great scoring chances, but Portland goalkeeper Steve Clark made a couple of spectacular saves, one on a header from Beckerman and another on a point blank shot from Justen Glad.
“Anytime you give a goal on a set-piece, that’s something we try to pride ourselves on, not giving away goals on set-pieces, so that unlocked the game a little bit,” Beckerman said. “But I thought come the second half, we had quite a few good chances to tie it up, which could have changed the game. Momentum could have got on our side and we weren’t able to finish.”
This was the second time in two weeks that RSL fell to Portland, having lost to the Timbers at Rio Tinto Stadium on October 6th, 4-1.
“First half was, to me, a continuation of the last time we played [Portland]. Second half we turned it on. Had some clear cut chances, didn’t convert them, and pushed players forward, made some tactical adjustments with less guys in the back and [Portland] got a third goal. Overall, second half I’m proud of the guys. Now it is what it is.”
Real Salt Lake wraps up the regular season with a record of 14-13-7, and unless Houston can play the Galaxy to at least a draw next Sunday, RSL’s season is over.