PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers defended their home turf on Saturday and snapped Real Salt Lake’s 18-game regular-season unbeaten streak with a 1-0 victory in front of a raucous JELD-WEN Field crowd.
The Timbers defense, maligned for its mistakes and questioned for its toughness, responded with the first clean sheet in the club’s short MLS history.
The goal came in the 22nd minute, when Kalif Alhassan crossed a ball to the front of the RSL net and Kenny Cooper hit a short volley with his right foot to put it past Salt Lake 'keeper Nick Rimando.
RSL, still recovering from Wednesday’s devastating loss to Monterrey in the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League finals, were looking to rebound and exert themselves as the premier team in MLS in their first league match in two-and-a-half weeks.
It was not to be as they ceded the eventual game-winner to Cooper, whose goal was his third of the season. It was Alhassan’s fourth assist.
Portland started Darlington Nagbe and Diego Chará in midfield together for the first time and they gave the Timbers a lift. Portland had the majority of the possession and a 6-2 shot advantage in the first half.
RSL pressed hard for an equalizer though much of the second half but did not come up with many opportunities to score. Nat Borchers had a headed chance in the 90th minute, but Timbers goalkeeper Troy Perkins was in place to catch the ball.
The win marked a huge one-week turnaround for Portland, who were was thoroughly beaten in a 3-0 loss last week at LA Galaxy.
RSL rested a couple of their regular starters, but welcomed the return of captain and holding midfielder Kyle Beckerman, who missed the CCL finale due to yellow-card accumulation. It was the team's third game in 10 days.
With the win, the Timbers move to 3-3-1 and are undefeated in three games at JELD-WEN Field. They next take on San Jose in a US Open Cup qualifier on May 3, then host Philadelphia in league play three days later.
Real Salt Lake, meanwhile, drop to 4-1-0 and next host Chivas USA at Rio Tinto Stadium on May 7.
POR -- Kenny Cooper 3 (Kalif Alhassan 4) 22
POR -- Jeremy Hall (caution; Reckless Tackle) 72
Real Salt Lake -- Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran (Ned Grabavoy 70), Nat Borchers, Chris Schuler, Chris Wingert, Jean Alexandre (Will Johnson 46), Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Collen Warner (Andy Williams 46), Alvaro Saborio, Arturo Alvarez.
Substitutes Not Used: Paulo Araujo Jr., Nelson Gonzalez, Rauwshan McKenzie, Kyle Reynish.
Portland Timbers -- Troy Perkins, Jeremy Hall, Eric Brunner, Mamadou Danso, Rodney Wallace, Darlington Nagbe (Sal Zizzo 82), Diego Chara, Jack Jewsbury, Kalif Alhassan, Kenny Cooper (Ryan Pore 89), Jorge Perlaza (James Marcelin 74).
Substitutes Not Used: Kevin Goldthwaite, Adam Moffat, Steve Purdy, Jake Gleeson.
Referee: Jair Marrufo
Referee's Assistants: Kermit Quisenberry; Claudio Badea
4th Official: Drew Fischer
Time of Game: 1:51
Weather: Partly Cloudy and 58 degrees