Steve Clark saved a first-half penalty kick, Sebastian Blanco and Diego Valeri scored, and the Portland Timbers won their third consecutive road game with a 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake Saturday night in Utah.
Portland beat RSL for the third consecutive time, having swept back-to-back games last October, and tied them on 10 points each as the Timbers continue their 12-game, season-opening road trip.
Real Salt Lake had a chance to jump on top in the 26th minute, when a penalty kick was awarded for a Zarek Valentin handball after Video Review. But Clark, starting his second straight contest, dove full-stretch to his right to deny Albert Rusnak’s low penalty kick.
Portland soon took the lead at the other end when sustained possession around the Salt Lake penalty area resulted in Sebastian Blanco teeing up a right-footed shot from the edge of the penalty area. Andrew Putna saved the initial shot, but Blanco – who torched Salt Lake with three goals and two assists in two October meetings last year - pounced first to power home a left-footed shot from close range.
Real Salt Lake answered back in the second half, as Jefferson Savarino’s flick seemed to surprise Sam Johnson at the top of the penalty area, but the Liberian Designated Player recovered to use his second touch on a 15-yard toe-poke that rolled past Clark and banked in off the left post to tie the score.
Yet Portland responded quickly to regain control, capitalizing after Putna out-kicked his coverage to generate another penalty-area shot for Blanco. Blocked by Justen Glad, the ball fell right to Valeri, who stepped up to hit a technically perfect shot with the outside of his right foot, smashing it through the legs of one defender and just inside the far post. Valeri became the ninth player in MLS history with 70 goals and 70 assists in regular-season play.
Real Salt Lake poured attacking players onto the field in search of a tying goal but never got closer than Sebastian Saucedo’s 73rd-minute curler that was tipped around the post by Clark, who finished with six saves.
- 34' – POR – Sebastian Blanco | WATCH
- 62' – RSL – Sam Johnson | WATCH
- 68' – POR – Diego Valeri | WATCH
- THE BIG PICTURE: Portland won four road games in all of the 2018 regular season, but the Timbers picked up their third straight W away from home and, in doing so, managed to catch Real Salt Lake, which has had the relative luxury of playing four home games, in the Western Conference standings. The Timbers held their opponents to one goal for the third consecutive game after allowing multiple goals in the first six contests, a sure sign Giovanni Savarese's team is starting to find itself.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Real Salt Lake looked poised to go in front midway through the first half, but Clark laid out for his fifth career save against 17 penalty kicks, dropping Rusnak to 5-for-7. The go-ahead goal came eight minutes later, and Real Salt Lake always seemed to be chasing after that.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Clark. Blanco continued to torment Salt Lake, and Valeri continued to be absolute class, but goalkeeping was the difference on the night, and Clark excelled throughout. He may have won the job away from Jeff Attinella, at least for the time being.
- RSL: Sat., May 11 at Colorado (9 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US; DAZN in Canada)
- POR: Fri., May 10 at Vancouver (10 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US; TSN in Canada)