PORTLAND, Ore. – Two of the top offensive teams in MLS shared the spoils Saturday night, but there was not a goal to be found as the Portland Timbers and Real Salt Lake played to a scoreless draw at JELD-WEN Field.
There was, however, plenty of reason for both teams to be happy, with the Portland Timbers having clinched a playoff spot earlier in the day thanks to Seattle's loss in Dallas and RSL clinching a sixth straight postseason berth thanks to the point on the road.
The result also kept Portland atop the table in the West with 54 points from 33 games and moved them a point behind Sporting KC in the Supporters' Shield race, though New York could leapfrog both teams with a win in Houston on Sunday.
The draw was the first scoreless encounter in four meetings between these teams across all competitions in 2013, with the first three games having yielded a total of 15 goals.
And while there was plenty of back-and-forth soccer and scintillating action in a game that featured some of the league’s top players, the chances around goal were few and far between.
The best look of the first half came when José Adolfo Valencia, making just his third start of the season, burst down the right flank and beat Chris Schuler at the endline with some fancy footwork, only to just miss Kalif Alhassan with his rolling pass across the face of goal.
It would take until the second half for either side to register a shot on target and Portland’s three shots on goal – all requiring exceptional work by RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando – were in fact night’s only attempts on frame.
The first came in the 65th minute when Timbers defender Jack Jewsbury sent in a cross from the right flank to Rodney Wallace. He nudged it on to a wide open Alhassan, but Rimando gobbled it up with a diving save.
Then, right before the final whistle, Portland nearly came way with the dramatic winner on a Will Johnson free kick from just outside of the area. But Rimando saved the day once again, first with a brilliant leaping effort to turn away Johnson and then again on a reaction save on a Sal Zizzo effort off the rebound.
Even the return of Portland playmaker Diego Valeri, who missed last weekend’s game against Seattle with an adductor strain, was not enough to pierce the RSL backline.
Despite RSL dominating possession throughout the night, with captain Kyle Beckerman, fresh off national team duty with the United States, directing the attack, there was nothing to test Timbers goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.
As it stands, both teams will actually make their final pushes for first against cellar-dwellers Chivas USA, with RSL playing host to the Rojiblancos on Wednesday and Portland traveling to the StubHub Center on Saturday.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Nick Rimando||Played like a man possessed in goal, making three top-drawer saves to preserve a point and a playoff berth for the Timbers|
|2||Yordany Álvarez||Played one of his best games in an RSL uniform, distributing well from the holding midfield spot and winning almost all the second balls. A big part of the visitors' possession advantage|
|3||José Valencia||The biggest attacking threat for either team on the night. Gave Chris Schuler and Chris Wingert all sorts of problems in the back and was reponsible for some of Portland's most dangerous moves|