SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake advanced to the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup final after posting a 2-1 win over the Portland Timbers Wednesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium.
RSL got an early goal by Alvaro Saborio, and Joao Plata scored what turned out to be a much-needed insurance goal in the 78th minute to help the team advance. Diego Valeri brought the visitors to within one right at the 90-minute mark, but there was to be no equalizer.
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Saborio got things started in the seventh minute, looping home a cross to the back post after Kyle Beckerman had done some stellar work getting loose on the wing. Saborio’s clinical header left Portland ‘keeper Donovan Ricketts with no chance.
After the goal, the tide turned as the Timbers began mounting attack after attack. They came inches away from breaking through in the 40th minute, as a full-sprint blast from Will Johnson forced a highlight-reel save by Nick Rimando.
The win puts RSL into their first final of any sort since the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League, which they lost 2-1 on aggregate to Monterrey.
Things began to get a little chippy after that. A collision between Rimando and Rodney Wallace resulted in a few shoves, choice words and a yellow card for both RSL's Carlos Salcedo and Portland's Ryan Johnson.
But while there were several such testy moments, they were merely the backdrop for some intricate, technical soccer from both teams. Valeri led the way for Portland as they tried to claw back into it, while RSL rope-a-doped and tried to hit on the counter or off of turnovers.
In the 63rd minute, the Timbers made a couple of changes, including removing captain and former RSL standout Will Johnson, who left to a standing ovation form the appreciative 14,742 of fans in attendance, a new record for a US Open Cup semifinal.
Plata came on around the same time, and immediately made an impact, tilting the game to the home team’s way a little bit. He finally got his breakthrough on the goal of the night, a right-footed shot from 25 yards that beat Ricketts. Both Saborio and Beckerman were credited with assists.
Valeri made the four minutes of stoppage time interesting when he scored an unassisted goal in the 90th minute off his own rebound from a Rimando save, but will be kicking himself for missing an even better look earlier in the half after a perfect cross from Ryan Miller.
Real Salt Lake will host D.C. United, who beat the Chicago Fire 2-0 earlier in the night, on October 1 for a chance to win their second trophy in club history.