RSL beat Portland 2-1 Wednesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium in front of a U.S. Open Cup semifinal record crowd of 14,742, and will play for the 100th U.S. Open Cup title October 1st against D.C. United.
“It’s huge for the club," said goalkeeper Nick Rimando. "It’s huge for the team. We really deserve something like this. The guys have been playing really hard and putting in a lot of work in the trainings this year. We’d been coming up short a couple of times in the years past, so it’s good to get back to a final. It’s not done yet. Our goal wasn’t to get to the final, it’s to win it. A lot of work still to be done, I think we could be sharper in this game, but those games you just go to win them and get to the final and give you the opportunity to raise a trophy and we need that.”
“It felt huge," added defender Nat Borchers. "The way that everybody stepped up tonight. I thought we were really good defensively for one thing, and you know, the last few games we haven’t been as good and sharp in the back… I think we were a little bit nervous on the ball in the first half, but the second half we really knocked it and we really found a lot of space and got in behind them.”
RSL got on the board early in the 7th minute, thanks to Alvaro Saborio. Saborio looped 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 goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts with no chance.
“I think scoring early was good for us," said head coach Jason Kreis. We’ve done a pretty good job of it. That was important, as well as the switch to Plata for the second goal – the game-winner. Again, the first goal was huge for us.”
Real Salt Lake slowed things down after taking the early lead, keeping the ball for long stretches and not allowing Portland much going forward. The Timbers started to regain a foothold towards the end of the half, however, nearly equalizing in the 40th minute. Former RSL midfielder Will Johnson got on the end of a cross in the center of the box, half-volleying a right-footed shot that Rimando made a terrific reaction save on.
“I’ve got to figure out what he’s eating, and eat the same thing," said Kreis."
In the 78th minute, Joao Plata put RSL up 2-0 when Beckerman played a pass to a posting up Saborio at the top of the 18. Saborio then layed the ball off to Plata in the center of Portland’s third. The substitute striker did the rest, taking a touch away from his marker before curling a gorgeous 25-yarder past Portland goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts and inside the far post.
“There was a good play between everybody," said Plata. "I feel really happy about it but it is important the team gets the three points, or just the final. We did it and we are happy and we need to focus on the next game.”
Portland's Diego Valeri scored in the 91st minute, but it was too little, too late.
RSL next returns to MLS play Saturday night at home against Houston.