SANDY, Utah — Defender Futty Danso’s equalizer in second-half stoppage time helped the Portland Timbers close their inaugural Major League Soccer season with a 1-1 road draw against Real Salt Lake on Saturday evening at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Alvaro Saborio struck in the first half and Real Salt Lake appeared ready to lock up the third seed in the Western Conference playoff bracket. But that was before defender Danso popped up in the RSL box and knocked in a late tap-in.
RSL, who currently hold the 3rd spot in the standings, now must wait to see how FC Dallas do at San Jose to learn if they will host the first leg of the Conference Semifinals next weekend or host a Wild Card match in midweek. Finishing 3rd in the West — and in the overall standings —could prove doubly important this year if LA or Seattle win the MLS Cup, as the 3rd-place club will earn a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Though Portland had nothing to play for but pride, the match was a feisty affair, as referee Silviu Petrescu handed out five yellow cards and was forced to separate the players multiple times, particularly as RSL attempted to play out the match in the second half.
By then, they had a one-goal lead, thanks to Saborio, who struck for his 11th goal of the season just before halftime. A long ball out of the midfield from Fabian Espindola picked out Saborio, who had slipped in behind the defense. A deft flick over the onrushing Timbers keeper Troy Perkins provided the killer touch, and RSL had a lead heading into the break.
In the 42nd minute, a quickly taken free kick set up Real Salt Lake’s Johnson for a sharp run into the box. Danso cut inside to get in front of Johnson’s drive to end the threat. A minute earlier, Jack Jewsbury’s timely tackle cut short a charging run towards the box by Espindola.
Timbers forward Kenny Cooper tried to find the back of the net off a free kick in the attacking third in the 25th minute, but his ball was deflected on its way through and landed just wide of the target. Just before halftime, Cooper let loose on a shot from beyond 35 yards on frame, but Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando was in position to calmly secure the ball for the lone save of the first half.
Within 10 minutes of the restart, it appeared that the Timbers would get the equalizer. First, Eric Alexander rifled a shot in the 47th minute from 30 yards out that produced a diving fingertip save from RSL keeper Nick Rimando.
In the 55th minute, Chris Wingert was whistled for a hand ball in the box. A sharp cross from Lovel Palmer clipped Wingert’s outstretched arm as he closed Palmer down, and Petrescu pointed to the spot.
However, the normally steady Jewsbury fired his shot off the crossbar and over.
After the penalty, both teams scratched and clawed, and the emotions inevitably spilled over. Several hard tackles came in. Saborio pushed defender Eric Brunner, which sparked a shoving match among the teams.
The commotion seemed to affect RSL’s concentration, and a lapse in the back led to Futty’s 90th-minute equalizer. Timbers substitute Brian Umony’s cross shimmied into the box, snuck past striker Bright Dike, and fell kindly to Futty, who had the whole net in front of him. It was an easy tap in and the score was level.
RSL nearly re-snatched their lead and three points in the dying seconds, but Saborio’s shot bounced off the post.
The draw puts RSL on 52 points and waiting for the result of the San Jose-Dallas match.
Meanwhile Portland finish their inaugural MLS season at 42 points, just missing out on a playoff spot.
RSL -- Alvaro Saborio 11 (Fabian Espindola 3) 46+
POR -- Futty Danso 3 (Brian Umony 1) 91+
Portland Timbers -- Troy Perkins, Lovel Palmer (David Horst 72), Eric Brunner, Futty Danso, Rodney Wallace, Eric Alexander, Jack Jewsbury, James Marcelin, Diego Chara, Kenny Cooper (Bright Dike 66), Kalif Alhassan (Brian Umony 80).
Real Salt Lake -- Nick Rimando, Robbie Russell, Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert, Andy Williams (Arturo Alvarez 84), Yordany Alvarez, Javier Morales, Will Johnson, Alvaro Saborio, Fabian Espindola.
RSL -- Chris Wingert (caution; Reckless Tackle) 27
RSL -- Yordany Alvarez (caution; Reckless Foul) 34
POR -- Rodney Wallace (caution; Tactical Foul) 38
POR -- Bright Dike (caution; Reckless Foul) 82
RSL -- Alvaro Saborio (caution; Unsporting Behavior) 86
Referee: Silviu Petrescu
Referee's Assistants: -Chris Strickland; Hector Vergara
4th Official: Allen Chapman
Time of Game: 1:50