On Saturday, April 19 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah Real Salt Lake remained the only undefeated team in Major League Soccer, upending their rival Portland Timbers 1-0. RSL didn’t make this game easy for either themselves or for the Timbers.
The game's outcome was left in doubt by the home team until the 78th minute when Ned Grabavoy made a sparkling run into the Timbers 18-yard-box and with his left foot swung momentum in RSL‘s favor to stay.
That goal from Grabavoy, the most unlikely of all in the claret and cobalt to score, was his first goal this season as the ball laid to rest inside the Timbers far side netting. Before that goal, however, RSL was in the fight of its life to stay unbeaten -- as visiting Portland threw everything, the Homelite chain saws and the kitchen sink at the home side.
None of it worked for Portland. Despite the Timbers commanding a 51-49 possession advantage over RSL, Portland simply could not unlock RSL’s defense enough to get the ball in the net. Lord only knows the Timbers tried everything on Easter Weekend amid sunny 70-degree temperatures.
It all started for Portland in the 19th minute and though it’s probably trite to write about the visiting side the Timbers controlled most of the attacks on this night. But like most big game players, RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando was up to the challenge.
He made a diving save in the 19th, he made another stellar save in the second half and that shot had Rimando leaping to his right post and somehow punching away a Portland strike that surely was headed inside the upper corner. It all had RSL head coach Jeff Cassar gushing about his prized pupil after the game.
“Nick and I have built up an unbelievable relationship over the last eight years. Now Daryl [Shore] has come in and is doing a fantastic job,” Cassar said. “I’m just so happy for Nick [Rimando]. The saves were world-class, and kept our team in it at, well, timely times. Just couldn’t be more happy for him, especially with everything that’s ahead of him – just so happy for him.”
And between those moments of brilliance by Rimando, there was a stroke of luck as well. Portland forward Maximiliano Urruti did beat Rimando once. But the rocket shot Urruti unleashed struck the goal post in the 58th minute to preserve RSL’s unbeaten run.
Real Salt Lake returns to action later this week against Vancouver at home. It sits in a tie for second place in the Western Conference at 13 points.