PORTLAND, Ore. – It was a rough and tumble opening night in the Rose City with the Portland Timbers and Real Salt Lake playing to a scoreless draw Saturday at Providence Park.
The meeting between the West rivals, who met in the 2013 conference championship, was marked more by the whistle of head referee Ismail Elfath – with a combined 41 fouls and five caution cards – than for the soccer.
And a physical match might have been the last thing the Timbers wanted, with a roster decimated by injury even beyond the long-term losses of captain Will Johnson (broken leg), midfielder Diego Valeri (ACL) and holding midfielder Ben Zemanski (ACL). Portland were also missing defensive midfielder Diego Chara, who has been battling a knock sustained two weeks ago in a preseason match against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Despite that, most of the chances belonged to the hosts.
In the 16th minute, Darlington Nagbe dumped off a short pass at the top of the box to Rodney Wallace, who fired a curling left-footed shot that forced a diving save out of RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
Portland’s best look of the first half came in the 41st minute when Wallace slid onto the end of a Jewsbury free kick, but the close-range shot was directed right at Rimando.
As is often the case, Rimando proved to be the hero on the night for RSL and their new-look center half with former New York Red Bulls center back Jamison Olave lining up alongside Chris Schuler.
Longtime RSL center back Nat Borchers instead ushered Portland’s solid defensive effort, limiting the opposition to just two shots on goal.
Rimando’s highlight save of the night came in the 53rd minute when a Portland corner kick fell to Wallace in the 6-yard box, who fired off a close-range blast that somehow Rimando was able to parry away with a quick-reaction save, one of his five on the night.
He turned in another diving save in the 70th minute when Fanendo Adi tried from distance to no avail.
Rimando did need some help from his defense to maintain the clean sheet, with Schuler clearing off the line a shot by second-half substitute Michael Nanchoff deep in stoppage time that was destined for the back of the net, with the US international pulled out of his goal.
The best of RSL’s few chances came in the 83rd minute when Alvario Saborio played to Luis Gil for a right-footed shot in the corner of the box that was cleaned up nicely by new Timbers ‘keeper Adam Kwarasey.
RSL move on to their home opener Saturday against the Philadelphia Union, while Portland play host to the LA Galaxy next Sunday.
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.
Portland Timbers (0-0-1, 1pt) vs. Real Salt Lake (0-0-1, 1pt)
March 7, 2015 – Providence Park (Portland, Ore.)
Goals by Half 1 2 F
Real Salt Lake 0 0 0
Portland Timbers 0 0 0
RSL: Mansally (Caution), 27
POR: Powell (Caution), 32
RSL: Gil (Caution), 45
RSL: Schuler (Caution), 48
POR: Ridgewell (Caution), 57
Lineups & Stats
POR: GK Adam Kwarasey, D Alvas Powell, D Nat Borchers, D Liam Ridgewell ©, D Jorge Villafaña, M Jack Jewsbury, M George Fochive (Nanchoff, 86), M Dairon Asprilla (Fernández, 62), M Darlington Nagbe, M Rodney Wallace, F Fanendo Adi (Urruti, 82)
Substitutes Not Used: GK Weber, D Jeanderson, D Paparatto, M Besler, M Nanchoff
TOTAL SHOTS: 18 (Wallace, 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 6 (Wallace, 4); FOULS: 19 (Asprilla, Fochive, 4); OFFSIDES: 0; CORNER KICKS: 11; SAVES: 2
RSL: GK Nick Rimando, D Tony Beltran, D Jámison Olave, D Chris Schuler, D Abdoulie Mansally, M Javier Morales, M Kyle Beckerman ©, M Luis Gil (Sandoval, 88), F Sebastian Jamie (Mulholland, 64), F Álvaro Saborío, F Olmes García (Allen, 81)
Substitutes Not Used: GK Attinella, D Maund, D Saucedo, D Vásquez
TOTAL SHOTS: 9 (García, Saborío, 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 2 (Gil, Morales, 1); FOULS: 22 (Schuler, 4); OFFSIDES: 0; CORNER KICKS: 0; SAVES: 6
Referee: Ismail Elfath
Assistant Referees: Ian Anderson, Jeff Hosking
4th Official: Juan Guzman
Time of Game: 1:51
Weather: Clear, 55 degrees
All statistics contained in this box score are unofficial