RSL victorious, but Timbers get a lifeline

Posted on 11 November 2013 by Aowabin Rahman

Real Salt Lake clinched the first leg of the Western Conference final, defeating Portland Timbers by 4-2 at Rio Tinto Stadium on Sunday. Chris Schuler, Robbie Findley, Devon Sandoval and Javier Morales registered for the home side, while Will Johnson and Frederic Piquionne scored for the Timbers.

Real Salt Lake probably had the psychological edge over their rivals, having beaten the TImbers twice this season at home and being unbeaten against them in their last eight outings. The home team, however, had to contend without star forward Alavaro Saborio , who suffered a hip flexor injury against LA Galaxy in the second leg of the Western Conference semi.

Timbers coach Caleb Porter fielded a positive XI, with playmaker Diego Valerie sitting behind the forward trio of Darlington Nagbe, Ryan Johnson and Rodney Wallace. The Portland side also had good form under their belt, going into the game with a 10-game winning streak.

RSL shaded the possession in the opening exchanges, but it were the Timbers who drew first blood. After playmaker Diego Valerie was fouled outside the box, captain Will Johnson stepped up to take the free-kick. The ex-RSL man brilliantly capitalized from the dead-ball in the 14th minute and beat Rimando at his bottom-right.

RSL began to enjoy a good spell of possession as the half progressed and had a couple of decent half chances from Kyle Beckerman and Nat Borchers. They finally made it count in the 35th minute, when defender Chris Schuler rose well above the Timbers defense and slotted home from the corner to draw the home side level.

The Timbers fans would’ve had their hearts in their mouths again in the 38th minute when another the ball bounced ominously in the box following a Moales corner, before finally cleared off the line by Valierie. Soon after, defender Nat Borchers also had an opportunity from a Beckerman cross, but the RSL man shot over the bar from close range.

Nonetheless, the home attendance did not have to wait long for their home side to pull ahead, as Portland defender Mamadou Danso failed to control a fairly simple ball in Timbers defense. Robbie Findley slipped in behind the defender to calmly finish past keeper Donovan Ricketts in the 40th minute.

RSL soon stretch get the two-goal cushion following a second-half kickoff. Morales, who had constantly found space between the Timbers midfield and defense, threaded Robbie Findley down the flank. The forward’s low cross found Sandoval in the box, who finished neatly in the 48th minute.

A relatively quiet phase of play followed. Portland were probing, yet not sufficiently threatening. Substitutes Khalif Alhassan and Frederic Piquionne  attempted a couple of long-rangers, but none of them tested Rimando.

It was RSL, however, who stretched the lead even further with a goal from Javier Morales in the 81st minute. The play started with an excellent RSL chance, when a Morales header was glanced goal-wards by Luis Gil, but then brilliantly kept out by keeper Ricketts. The resulting corner from substitute Plata was met by Morales low in the box, whose diving header went past Ricketts.

Portland Timbers, were thrown a lifeline in the dying minutes of second-half injury time, when a deep cross from full-back Paul Jewsbury was brilliantly headed in by Frederic Piquionne. The header sufficient power and direction to beat keeper Rimando and kept the Timbers in the two-legged series.

The six-goal thriller was a repeat score-line of an earlier encounter between the two sides in the regular season at Rio Tinto. Both coaches could take positives from the game: Jason Kreis probably would’ve taken a two-goal lead before the start of the game, while Caleb Porter could take heart from the last-minute goal and would feel that they’re capable of overturning the two-goal deficit on their own turf.

The teams face again in the second leg on November 24 at Jen-Weld Stadium.



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Real Salt Lake v. Portland Timbers, Western Conference Finals Leg 1

Posted on 11 November 2013 by Tino Arana

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Real Salt Lake v LA Galaxy Nov 7, 2013

Posted on 08 November 2013 by Tino Arana

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Galaxy win First Leg against Real Salt Lake

Posted on 04 November 2013 by iyeo

Opening the first leg of its Western Conference semifinal matchup against dangerous Real Salt Lake at home, the Los Angeles Galaxy made the most of its opportunity on Sunday evening.

The Galaxy dominated the possession and scoring chances in the match, but it wasn’t until early in the second half that LA put the ball in the back net, and it came from Right Back Sean Franklin, whose long range volley was all LA needed to draw first blood in its 1-0 win at the StubHub Center.

“It was a good effort for 90 minutes,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said. “Our team played well tonight and we certainly had a chance to get a few more goals.”

Franklin’s goal and the first leg win will surely be needed for the Galaxy, as they prepare for what will surely be a hostile atmosphere and a more desperate RSL side in the final leg, which will be Thursday at Rio Tinto Stadium.

“We weren’t good with the ball tonight,” Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis said. “We gave the ball away so cheaply so many times in dangerous spots.”

After a scoreless first half, albeit it with some scoring opportunities, the Galaxy pushed ahead in the 49th minute. Robbie Keane held the ball on RSL’s left side, then played a ball back towards the top of the box. Fortunately, Franklin charged in and fired a laser of a volley for the near post and succeeded, as the ball sailed past a diving Nick Rimando into the back net.

“The ball just came out of the top of the box, I had the time and space and I just tried to keep it on frame,” Franklin said of his goal.

Salt Lake looked for the equalizer shortly after the goal. RSL had a chance in the 67th minute, as Sebastian Velasquez brought down a cross inside the penalty area, but Franklin swooped in and blocked the shot. RSL’s best chance at an equalizer came in the 81st minute, as Chris Wingert played a ball into the six-yard box for Luis Gil. Gil’s presence drew out keeper Jaime Penedo and Gil responded by crossing a short ball towards Devon Sandoval, who was right in front of goal, but Left Back Todd Dunivant marked Sandoval well enough to prevent Sandoval from getting any shot off and play continued despite RSL’s plea for a penalty shot.

“We had a lot of numbers behind the ball, but we really didn’t get pressure to it,” Kreis said.

The Galaxy dominated the first half with numerous scoring chances, but had trouble with its finishing. LA got a chance in the 12th minute, as Gyasi Zardes played a ball forward for a sprinting Landon Donovan, who managed to get behind RSL Center Back Nat Borchers. Donovan sprinted into the 18-yard box and fired a ball past Rimando, but missed the near post. LA got another look at goal in the 19th minute when RSL Center Back Chris Schuler headed a ball down, but apparently did not know that Donovan was there. Taking advantage of the giveaway by RSL, Donovan then sprung Keane, who got inside the 18, but his shot attempt went right into the hands of Rimando.

“We had our chances certainly,” Arena said. “I think Rimando did real well tonight, he looked composed in goal and didn’t make anything easy.”

Salt Lake didn’t pose much of a threat in the first half, expect for a chance in the 26th minute, as Ned Grabavoy touched a ball to Gil, who quickly touched it back to Grabavoy. Grabavoy sprinted for the LA penalty area and played a short cross back to Gil, who fired a shot on goal, but just missed the near post.

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Timbers Get Historic Win In Seattle

Posted on 03 November 2013 by Kyle Alm

Sounders have not been able to advance in a two-legged playoff series in MLS Cup. After beating Colorado Rapids last week in the 4th and 5th place play-in It looked like Sounders had gotten over being snake-bit in the MLS Regular Season, not having won a match since September 13th. Seattle earned a shot at their I-5 rival, Portland Timbers. Caleb Porter had been up scouting his potential opponents in Seattle and his team appeared prepared to face a new-look lineup for Sounders. Both teams nearly at full-strength at the end of the season, there was plenty to be excited about with this Cascadia fixture.

Sounders got the better of play early, created chances, but were unable to finish them. Brad Evans found himself with a decent shot early that went wide of the Timbers net. Ryan Johnson returned fire a minute later on mirror image chance, perhaps a few yards further, that went similarly wide. Sounders came right back at Timbers when Adam Moffat made an uncharacteristic run with the ball down the left wing and skinned Diego Chara to the inside with a precision that made you wonder if Sounders had the Portland Timbers on the ropes.

Portland’s attack looked anemic and too willing to take speculative chances from distance. Will Johnson sent a couple of shots into the Brougham End and the Emerald City Supporters’ section. But it was boys in Rose Red that would draw first blood. ‘Captain’ Jack Jewsbury overlapping from his right back position sent a short cross to the near post that somehow found its way to Ryan Johnson. Somehow in this instance means that Jhon Kennedy Hurtado didn’t follow his mark, Ryan Johnson, although he was closer to the danger-man than Djimi Traore the entire time he inexplicably quit following him. Marcus Hahnemann didn’t cover his near post. The ball may have even hit him on the way in the 15th minute.

Dempsey added weight to a cliche within five minutes on a set piec that forced Donovan Ricketts into an incredible save. Another Ricketts was able to push just over the crossbar.

Lamar Neagle came out of the locker room and earned a yellow card within moments of the second half kickoff. A foolish and unnecessary infraction against Diego Valeri that will cost him the return leg. Luckily for his coach Obafemi Martins may be available.

Alonso got caught ball watching when Nagbe went wide where Rosales was shadowing him. Traore was there to cover but missed his tackle and left Marcus Hahnemann with no chance at saving Nagbe’s shot. It’s curious to note how deep the Sounders backline is when Nagbe receives the ball, he’s exactly (thanks to the magic of gridiron technology) 14 yards from the endline. That’s too deep when the ball was passed from 25 yards out, the line needs to be higher, especially if Adam Moffat is going to be 3 yards off of Khalif Alhassan when he plays the ball in. In defense of the Scotsman, he brought the defensive pressure from the middle of the park where he was put similar pressure on Will Johnson who supplied the ball. Traore missed his tackle but Hahnemann should have pushed his defensive line higher.

At the last possible moment it was Alonso who brought a glimmer of hope for his team when he took Shalrie Joseph’s flicked on header from Mauro Rosales’ corner and gave the Sounders a fighting chance going to Portland.

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Sounders Knock Out Colorado

Posted on 31 October 2013 by Kyle Alm

Seattle Sounders found a way to win against Colorado Rapids. A most unusual way.

The MLS Playoffs got off to a memorable start in Seattle as the Sounders knocked out the Colorado Rapids. Although the most talked about subject will be the referee and some of the unusual decisions that Silviu Petrescu made. But for the second match in a row the Sounders were the beneficiary of the officiating.

Sounders brought out the the interchangeable midfield lineup of Clint Dempsey, Osvaldo Alonso, Adam Moffat, and Brad Evans that was effective against LA Galaxy. Rapids Coach Oscar Pareja deployed a 4-3-3 against the Sounders 4-4-2. Sounders had the better of play in the midfield with their numbers advantage for possesion while the Rapids appeared content to defend and look for their opportunities to counter-attack and get behind the Sounders defence.

Lamar Neagle had a noteworthy performance, not because he played particularly well, but for all of his histrionics. Neagle had a verbal warning in each half for fouls. In the 12th minute Neagle found space behind the back line of Rapids with German Mera let a long ball from Michael Gspurning bounce past him for Clint Irwin. There was clearly a miscommunication between the two players and Neagle attempted a header that went wide when he may have had time for a touch. A minute later Neagle had a ball drop in front of him in the penalty box on a ball in from Adam Moffat.

Rapids found space on a counter-attack 17 minutes in when Martin Rivero got behind the Sounders backline. There really wasn’t much of a threat from it, Sounders defense was able to recover on Rivero and no Rapids player came to support the attack. Dempsey had several shots that were around the frame, one from 25 yards just to the right of the semi-circle that went over the bar and appeared to have Irwin beat.

Sounders would get on the scoreboard first in the 28th minute when Leo Gonzalez overlapped Adam Moffat and crossed the ball in.The Rapids were not able to clear the ball from the penalty area and Brad Evans trapped the ball with his chest and hit the back of the net with his volley. A big relief for Sounders who have not been scoring many goals recently. Evans who missed two sitters in Dallas now has a club goal that compares with his USMNT goal against Jamaica.

Neagle found himself with another scoring opportunity from Dempsey on a simple give and go that the Federal Way native was not able to put on frame. Rapids were only able to create two shots in the first half, it was in the 45th minute that Gspurning was called into action to save a shot from Rivero.

DeAndre Yedlin suffered an injury as the half drew to a close and would not be able to continue. The goal scorer, Evans, filled his space at right back and Marc Burch moved into the left mid position to start the second half. Burch showed his worth with a left-footed set piece that beat Irwin but didn’t get past the crossbar.

Colorado showed much more life in the second half and Deshorn Brown got Colorado’s second shot on frame 10 minutes into the second half. It didn’t really get any better for the Rapids.

Petrescu had some curious decisions in the match to say the least. There were two verbal warnings given to Lamar Neagle. Neagle was given a verbal warning for a foul away from the ball on former Sounder Nathan Sturgis in the first half. Given another verbal warning in the second, and was eventually shown a yellow card in the 78th minute for shoving a defender into Irwin.

Colorado narrowly escaped a penalty kick on two separate and consecutive handballs. Both seemed obvious from the press box, and defenders were clearly not in natural positions when they handed the ball in the area. Advantage was gained but no penalty kick was awarded. Hendry Thomas could be seen shaking his hand after the ball hit it and it still wasn’t called. A truly interesting moment happened with Clint Dempsey and Clint Irwin outside of the penalty area. Irwin came out to win a ball with Dempsey bearing down. The Rapids goalkeeper was levelled by Dempsey, who jumped in the air into Irwin. Irwin was incredulous as he was booked.

Gspurning was also booked when he came out of the box in the 85th minute and deliberately handed the ball and then knocked Edson Buddle to the ground. It was unclear whether Gspurning was shown red for the deliberate handball or violent conduct. He will miss the home leg against Portland Saturday and may have lost his starting position for the remainder of the playoffs.

Sounders went to 10 men and Lamar Neagle made way for Marcus Hahnmann to replace Gspurning. Zach Scott came on moments later for Adam Moffat to defend the one goal lead. Shockingly, Rapids conceded a goal shortly after Gspurning was sent off. Eddie Johnson gave a ball back to Dempsey at the top of the box and his shot missed narrowly. Minutes later EJ had a go of his own, kept the ball for himself, and was able to finish past Irwin for the final goal.

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Sounders & Galaxy Draw MLS 2013 To Close

Posted on 28 October 2013 by Kyle Alm

MLS 2013 is officially in the books. It’s been a playoff run to remember, and the Sounders have finally cemented their position in the MLS Cup playoff. When Sounders last won a match (September 13th) they were in control of their playoff destiny. Seven straight fixtures without a win have left Sounders matched up against Colorado in the play-in for the two-legged semi-final against Portland. Sounders were the beneficiary of Vancouver Whitecaps win against Colorado. Had the Rapids beat the Whitecaps the play-in would have been hosted in the thin oxygen of the Mile-High City.

Sounders were missing Obafemi Martins, still sidelined with a groin injury and Lamar Neagle took his spot at the forward position. Sigi Schmid tried an unconventional midfield lineup with Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Adam Moffat, and Clint Dempsey. Those are four central players primarily. Evans plays every/any position for Sounders, and Dempsey has played wide for the USMNT, Fulham, and Tottenham. It was surprisingly effective at keeping the LA midfield bottled up. Adam Moffat had the first notable action for Sounders in the first half, a shot from distance with the Scotsman moving inside from his wide-left position and another attempt on a follow-up that he put into the side netting.

Sounders clearly had the better of play early in the half. LA Galaxy were not able to develop possession into danger. It would not be until the 25th minute that the Galaxy would create a shot. Donovan and Gyasi Zardes forced Michael Gspurning into two saves in the 25th and 29th minute and appeared that Bruce Arena’s men were finding some rhythm offensively.

It was at that moment when Clint Dempsey would score his first MLS goal since his transfer to Seattle. A cross from the right side from Lamar Neagle to the far post found Dempsey in the clear when Omar Gonzalez overran the play and Dempsey took one touch with the outside of his foot and sent the ball back the way it was coming and beat Jaime Penedo who was scrambling to recover after he came out for the cross that he was.

Eddie Johnson missed the best opportunity of the night on a ball played by Lamar Neagle that went right at Pinedo in the 35th minute. But the real goal controversy was when Osvaldo Alonso cleared the ball out of the goal in the 42nd minute off of a corner quicker than you can say “goal-line technology. Omar Gonzalez’s header was clearly over the line. Clearly more than the width of the ball, and Alonso had both feet behind the goal-line by a noticeable distance.

Alonso also gifted Robbie Rogers with a goal scoring opportunity when the Cuban settled a ball that Rogers took cleanly. The shot was on target but not too far for Gsuprning to parry away.

Robbie Keane clipped Djimi Traore in the back of the leg and was booked for it as the half drew to a close. Neither team made substitutions at half.

Sounders had packed it back a bit in the second half content to defend their lead. They would not muster another attempt that would find the frame for the rest of the night.

At his post-match press conference Sigi Schmid gave insight into his first substitution of the night. Schmid revealed that Mauro Rosales had been having some trouble with his knees and that Eddie Johnson started to tighten up a bit. In the 78th minute the Sounders manager made the subsitution right after Arena brought on Jose Villareal for Robbie Rogers. Villareal wasted no time making his presence felt on the match as his shot rebounded to Robbie Keane who smashed his volley into the turf and watched it bounce past Gspurning for the equalizer that should have been a winner.

With 10 minutes to go in the match both teams had their playoff fortunes laid out. LA would finish 3rd and Sounders would host the play-in against Colorado Rapids on Wednesday. Portland Timbers await the winner.

Sigi Schmid is anxious to get back at Colorado Rapids for their contribution to the Sounders recent misfortunes. In a one-off match anything can happen. Both Colorado and Seattle are on equal rest for Wednesday’s play-in. And as Schmid mused, “maybe luck is turning for us a bit.” Perhaps it is. The lineup worked to Schmid’s favor against the Galaxy and Sigi deserves credit for tweaking the lineup with what he had available against the holders of the MLS Cup.

Sometimes all it takes is a goal to break things loose. After rattling the frame for the last month and a half hopefully Sounders have found the scoring touch. If that is the case the MLS Cup field had better take notice, Sounders are showing sign of improvement just in the nick of time.

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Timbers clinch top seed in West with 5-0 win over Chivas USA

Posted on 27 October 2013 by iyeo

Apparently making the playoffs for the first time in franchise history was not enough for the Portland Timbers.

The Timbers entered Saturday night’s regular season finale against Chivas USA needing a win to cement first place in the Western Conference, and did they ever make the most of its opportunity. The Timbers found the back net three times in the first half, added two more goals in the second half, and Portland ran away with the top seed in the West with a 5-0 win at the StubHub Center.

“It’s been a fun season, but I think we’re all going to continue to remain grounded, humble and hungry and keep this thing business as usual,” Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said. “We don’t want to celebrate or reflect too much because we’re focused on not just being in the playoffs, but we want to win it all.”

Portland took control of the game in the first half. The Timbers struck in the 16th minute as Johnson played a ball into the penalty area to Jose Adolfo Valencia. Valencia took a shot on goal, but was blocked. The ball did stay in the box and Valeri came in and blasted a ball past keeper Tim Melia into the back net.

The Timbers were just getting warmed up. Valeri made it a two-goal game in the 29th minute, as he took advantage of a misplayed ball by Left Back Jaime Frias and broke for goal. Valeri juked out a recovering Frias and chipped a ball perfectly over Melia into the far post to double Portland’s lead. Valeri took on the role of assist man in the 34th minute, as he chased down Futty Danso’s long ball down the right flank. Valeri fought off a challenge from Josue Soto, who had replaced Frias moments earlier, went into the box and played a bal to Rodney Wallace, who touched a ball past Melia into the back net.

“Our philosophy is to press and it’s not just a couple of guys, but ten guys,” Porter said. “I thought we were very aggressive and really set the tone with our suffocating relentless pressure.”

The Timbers didn’t let up in the second half, finding the back net once more in the 72nd minute. Wallace took a shot on goal that was saved by Melia, but Ryan Johnson, who had came in as a substitute back in the 62nd minute, was in the right spot at the right time, as he slotted a ball past Melia into the back net. Then in the 75th minute, Portland won a free kick just outside the penalty area when Carlos Borja fouled Will Johnson and a minute later, Johnson sent a powerful free kick through the wall and though Melia got a touch on the set piece, it still wasn’t enough to stop the ball from going in far post.

“It gave me a bit of confidence,” Johnson said. “I’ve been hitting them in training, and now it just gives me a boost to take that confidence into the playoffs and see if I can get one in the playoffs.”

Chivas did present a few scoring opportunities in the match. The Goats thought it should have been awarded a penalty when Striker Erick “Cubo” Torres was brought down from behind by Midfielder Diego Chara, but no call was made. Matthew Fondy did get a shot on goal during the sequence, but it was blocked out of bounds. Torres did get one chance in the 80th minute, as Fondy crossed a ball towards the far post and Torres headed a ball on target, but Ricketts recovered to parry the ball away.

“What you saw today was a team that was very regular,” Chivas USA head coach Jose Luis Real said. “This last game left a bad impression on the fans and on the players and on everyone that was here today.”

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RSL keep Shield hope alive with Chivas win

Posted on 24 October 2013 by Aowabin Rahman

RSL closed their regular season with a comfortably with a 2-1 win over Chivas USA at Rio Tinto and in the process securing at least a second seed in the playoffs.  All the goals came in the second half, with Alvaro Saborio and Joao Plata scoring for the hosts and

Having secured a playoff position last Saturday, RSL were coming into the last game of the season looking for a win and hoping that Sporting KC, Red Bulls and Portland Timbers slip up, as the teams jostle for the Supporters’ Shield. An RSL win would propel them to a minimum of 2nd seed, whereas anything less would mean that RSL needed to rely on a host of other results in the Western Conference for a favorable seeding.

Chivas USA were coming into the game bottom of the Western Conference with only 26 points, as they were hoping to end their road campaign on a high.

The first chance of the game came to Chivas, as Edgar Meija found space in the right flank and spotted Erick Torres in the box. The forward’s rushed effort was blocked by Chris Schuler. RSL soon had a chance of their own, as a break-away in the 12th minute found Joao Plata at the edge of the box. The forward’s effort went over the bar.

Chivas soon created more problems down the right flankas Eric Avila ominously ran with pace down the byline in the 16th minute. His cross was met by Torres, whose header forced a good save off Rimando. Carlos Alvarez tried to pounce on the rebound, but his effort went wide.

As the half wore on, RSL predictably took more control of the game and looked particularly threatening from set-pieces. Forward Alvaro Saborio towered over the Chivas defense on several occasions, most notably in the 28th minute from a Beckerman free-kick. The Costa-Rican’s header was saved by  Chivas keeper and former RSL man Tim Meila.

The teams went into the half 0-0, but Kreis could have been worried having both center-backs booked within the first 45 minutes.

Kreis’ men, however, came of the blocks fast in the 2nd half, having brought on talismanic playmaker Javier Morales. They were quickly rewarded, as referee saw a handball in the box from defender Mario de Luna following a Plata flick-on. Saborio converted from the spot to give RSL the lead in the 49th minute.

Chivas’ woes were compounded in the 52nd minute  when Joao Plata found himself at the end of a loose ball following good RSL play in the Chivas’ third. The forward’s neatly placed finish past Meila gave RSL a two-goal cushion.

Midfielder Ned Gravaboy could have easily had a third for RSL in the 55th, when he found himself in a one-on-one with Meila after he found himself at the end of a Morales ball.  The Chivas keeper, however, made the save.

In the 67th minute, Gravaboy found himself with a more difficult chance when he was on the receiving end of a low cross from Tony Beltran. The angle was too tight, however, and his shot went wide.

Chivas barely mounted a clear-cut opportunity in the second half and in fact, it was the home team with the more decisive chances in the latter stages. Robbie Findley, on for Plata, forced another save from Meila from the edge of the box in the 71st. This was soon followed by a goal-mouth scramble following a Chris Schuler header from a corner, but desperate defending prevented an RSL goal.

It appeared RSL would cruise to the final whistle,  but Chivas did manage to bring some life back in the game in the 77th minute.  Substitute Julio Morales caught the RSL backline off-guard and found himself at the end of a Carlos Chueca ball. The forward‘s intelligent finish pulled one back for away side.

The closing few minutes were a bit more nervy than RSL would have anticipated, but the home side held on to their one goal lead. The win guarantees RSL a top-two seed, playing their road and home games in the Conference Semis on Nov 2/3 and Nov 6/7. The result also gives RSL hopes of winning the Supporters’ Shield, as they would be hoping the other contenders slip up this weekend.

Ironically, it is Chivas USA who could be helping the RSL cause as they take on Portland Timbers.  Anything less than a win for Chivas would ensure top spot for RSL in the West.


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Real Salt Lake 2-1 Chivas USA Oct. 23, 2013

Posted on 24 October 2013 by Tino Arana

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