SANDY, Utah — It was hardly the goalfest typical of the series, but the result of Saturday's Real Salt Lake-Portland Timbers showdown was familiar to anyone who's paid attention to the two teams' budding rivalry – Real claimed points for the 10th consecutive time against their Western Conference rivals with a 1-0 victory.
As it was beginning to look like Saturday evening's match at Rio Tinto Stadium would produce the fifth tie of the season for both teams, veteran midfielder Ned Grabavoy provided the necessary moment of magic. The 30-year-old took a pass from Sebastián Velásquez and drove past Darlington Nagbe into the area before finishing left-footed past Donovan Ricketts in the 78th minute.
The Timbers weren't about to lay down, however. In the 85th minute, Portland substitute Gastón Fernández found Alvas Powell with an inspired through ball to give him a clear shot at the goal, only to see RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando make a tough kick save to preserve the lead.
Rimando – back on the field after missing RSL's last two games because of knee injury – had the sell-out crowd back on their feet just three minutes later when, after a giveaway by RSL captain Kyle Beckerman, Fernández curled in a beautiful shot on target only to see Rimando leap up and knock it around the post.
Even Rimando, however, needed a bit of luck throughout the game. He was beaten in the 58th minute on a rocket by Portland's Maximiliano Urruti that came back off the woodwork and breathed another sigh of relief just two minutes later when Urruti shanked a breakaway chance wide right.
Much of the away side's best play in the first half came from the feet of Nagbe. The youngster had his best moment in the 18th minute when he burst past three RSL players and had defender Nat Borchers in retreat, only to see Rimando react superbly as he tried to go top shelf, getting a big paw on the close-range effort and turning it behind.
In addition to securing three points, the timely saves throughout the match proved vital in Rimando earning his 111th career shutout, leaving him just one short of tying the all-time MLS record of 112 held by Kevin Hartman.
The win leaves Real Salt Lake (3-0-4) as the only unbeaten team in MLS, while Portland (0-3-4) remain winless. The result also saw RSL run their record against the defending Western Conference regular season champions since the start of 2012 to 8-0-2 in all competitions.
Real remain home next week, hosting the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday. The Timbers remain on the road, but have an extra day to prepare for a Sunday match at Houston on April 27.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Nick Rimando||Wasn't prolific, but came up with three huge saves to preserve the shutout, including two highlight-reel stops in the dying minutes of the encounter|
|2||Ned Grabavoy||Rounded out a good two-way performance on the left side of RSL's diamond midfield with an excellent run and finish for the winner|
|3||Javier Morales||Managed a fine game despite the close (and often times disruptive) attentions of Diego Chara, making RSL's attack tick|