SANDY, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – With one huge victory, Real Salt Lake is right back in playoff contention.
Douglass Martinez scored his first career MLS goal, while Damir Kreilach added his team-leading 8th goal of the season, as RSL held off a second half rally by Portland to win at home, 2-1.
The victory ended Real Salt Lake’s 3-game losing skid and Portland’s 5-game winning streak.
RSL also moves up from 11th place in the Western Conference to 9th, just below Vancouver for the final playoff spot.
“I think we were going to get the best out of our guys today,” said RSL head coach Freddy Juarez. “We had a very good talk a few days ago and I’m so proud of the group that they responded with this. At moments it’s tough when you’re in a situation like ours where you haven’t gotten a good result in a couple games, you’re a little uptight, you don’t want to make mistakes. I was just asking the guys to free themselves. You know, ‘free yourself, you’re a good team.’ I was very proud of how the team responded today.”
Martinez opened the scoring in the 12th minute, when Portland goalkeeper Aljaz Ivacic came out of the net to try to punch the ball away. But it went right to Martinez, who buried his first career MLS goal.
“Love it,” Juarez said about Martinez’ goal. “I told him today, just right now, he continues to get better. Today, I’m so proud of the way he held the ball.”
Then in the 26th minute, Pablo Ruiz’ corner kick landed right at the feet of Kreilach, who blasted in his 8th goal of the season to give RSL a 2-0 lead.
“I believe that’s our eighth set piece goal,” Juarez said. “It’s one of the things at the beginning of the year that I wanted to really take advantage of, because I think it’s a big part of the game.”
Portland took one back in the 77th minute on a goal by Bill Tuiloma, but RSL held on for the much-needed victory.
“They are a team on fire lately, I think they won their last five in a row or something,” said RSL defender Aaron Herrera. “For me they are one of the best teams in the league, they show that year in and year out. They are a very deep team, so they can sort of keep guys on rotation which makes it a very tough team to deal with, but everyone just has to handle their 1v1s and as long as everyone does their job we give ourselves a chance.”
Because their game at Colorado on Sunday was postponed because of COVID-19 concerns, Real Salt Lake (5-7-6) now has 10 days off before next hosting FC Dallas.
“They’re going to get a couple days off, they deserve those days off and then we have a good long week to train for an FC Dallas team that I respect a lot because they’re a well coached team,” Juarez said. “Then we see how we can take points from them. That’s going to be the goal.”
“In this league any team can win, especially this year,” said RSL midfielder Nick Besler. “It’s been such a crazy year. There have been so many, I don’t want to say random results, but it really is anybody’s night, home or away.”