SANDY, Utah – Real Salt Lake's offensive onslaught showed no sign of letting up as they scored four goals for the second consecutive game at Rio Tinto Stadium in a 4-2 win over the Portland Timbers Friday night.
Joao Plata contributed a goal and two assists, Javier Morales hit the goal of the evening with a sensational overhead kick, and Luis Gil and Alvaro Saborio rounded things out on the scoresheet for the league's top-scoring team.
Morales' surefire Goal of the Week candidate came in the 55th minute and broke open in what was until then a tightly-fought game. With RSL leading 2-1 Plata's corner kick found its way to Morales at the back post, and though the ball initially bounced up on the creative midfielder, he twisted his body to hit a bicycle kick that flew back across ball and bounced in off the post.
Saborio would go on to add an insurance goal before Sal Zizzo pulled one back for the visitors, but a comeback never looked likely for the Timbers, who played the entire second half with 10 men after Ben Zemanski's red card in first-half stoppage time.
The win extended RSL's (14-8-6) lead in the Western Conference to eight points while leaving things as muddled as ever among the chasing pack, with the Timbers (9-5-12) squarely in the middle.
RSL came out hot, dominating possession and putting the Timbers on their heels. A crisp passing sequence off a throw-in began the first goal, with Morales and Kyle Beckerman combining to find Plata, who in turn one-timed a pass through the right side of the box to Gil. The 19-year-old took a touch and then clinically finished with a right foot to the far post for his fifth goal of the season.
The Timbers, who came out in a rarely-seen 3-4-3 formation, weren't done , as Darlington Nagbe scorched a low shot from distance past Nick Rimando in the 31st minute after benefitting from Michael Harrington's storming, 50-yard run up the field.
A double blow after the goal would sour the visitors' mood, though, as playmaker Diego Valeri was forced to come off the field with an adductor strain, leading Timbers coach Caleb Porter to revert to a four-man backline. It went from bad to worse for Portland right before halftime, though, as Zemanski saw straight red from Baldomero Toledo for a high challenge on Ned Grabavoy.
With the Timbers down a man, RSL took full advantage and held possession again for long stretches. Morales' moment of brilliance allowed RSL to pull away before Saborio flicked the Argentine's free kick into the net for RSL's fourth to well and truly settle the game.
Caleb Porter's Portland side return to action Saturday, Sept. 7 when they face Toronto FC. RSL, meanwhile, are off until Friday, Sept. 13 when they travel to Seattle to play the Sounders.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Javier Morales||One memorable goal, one assist and pure inspiration all game long. Nearly had a goal to match his first, only for his long-range chip to sail inches wide|
|2||Joao Plata||Just as deserving as Morales of the #1 spot, Plata keyed his team's outburst with a well-taken goal, two assists and an uneding willingness to run at the Portland backline|
|3||Ned Grabavoy||Continued his fine season with an all-action performance, keeping things glued together in midfield alongside Beckerman and drawing more than a few fouls from Portland|