SANDY, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – It took until the final game of the regular season once again, but Real Salt Lake is headed back to the MLS playoffs.
Jefferson Savarino, Rubio Rubin and Bode Hidalgo all scored goals as RSL beat the Portland Timbers, 3-1 Sunday at America First Field. RSL locks down the seventh seed in the Western Conference, and will play at #2 seed Austin FC Sunday, October 16th at 1:00 p.m.
“It’s huge and I think the energy that the fans brought was fantastic, and the guys really vibed off of that,” said head coach Pablo Mastroeni. “There’s been too many games this year where we’ve had big crowds and have underdelivered, and to put forth that performance and get a result like that in front of a big crowd is fantastic—not only for the players and not only for the fans but for the club, and really the synergy between the club and the fans. It was a very important moment moving forward. I couldn’t be happier for the fans given the performance that the guys put forth today.”
Real Salt Lake (12-11-11, 47 points) snapped a five-match winless streak, and won for just the second time in its last seven home games. RSL had not won a match since the end of August and scored only two goals over its last five matches. RSL finished with a 17-9 advantage in total shots and put four balls on frame.
The Timbers (11-10-13, 46 points) lost to RSL for just the second time in 11 regular-season matches between the two clubs over the last five seasons. The clubs battled to a 0-0 draw in late April.
RSL struck first on Savarino’s goal in the 19th minute. Bryan Oviedo laid the ball off to Savarino and he blasted a right-footer from outside the box and threaded it inside the right post.
Real Salt Lake proved much more aggressive than Portland before halftime when it came to creating scoring chances. RSL held an 8-3 advantage in total shots during the first half.
Rubin scored his first goal of the season in the 48th minute to extend RSL’s lead to 2-0. Oviedo also set up this strike, sending a cross to Rubin in the center of the box. Rubin blasted a left-footer outside the 6-yard box into the middle of the goal, for his first goal of the season.
Hidalgo added an insurance goal in the 82nd minute. Jasper Loffelsend fed a pass to him outside the center of the 6-yard box and the Utah native blasted it home for his first career MLS goal.
“Obviously it’s a surreal feeling,” Hidalgo said. “It’s something you always dream of. I was fortunate enough to get it today, but I’m more grateful that the team got the three points and that we’re in the playoffs.”
Portland pulled a goal back when Dairon Asprilla sent in a left-footer in the 87th minute.
But RSL celebrated minutes later with another playoff bid.
“We’re all very excited,” said goalkeeper Zac MacMath. “I think we all had a pretty good feeling going into this game. We controlled the game very well. I would say it was a comfortable win which was nice considering how we did it last year. We deserve to be in the playoffs. We were above the playoff line most of the year. We struggled at times but we thought we were a playoff team all year. We battled against some of the strongest teams in the league all year long. It’s a huge credit to Pablo [Mastroeni] and everyone in the back room and the players who work very hard to get to where we are today.”