SANDY, Utah — SANDY, Utah — Robbie Findley scored the go-ahead goal in the first half and had an assist in the second half, leading Real Salt Lake to a 4-2 victory over the Portland Timbers in the first leg of the Western Conference finals on Sunday night.
Chris Schuler, Devon Sandoval and Javier Morales also scored for Salt Lake, which will take a two-goal advantage into the second leg of the series on Nov. 24 at Portland’s Jeld-Wen Field.
Salt Lake scored three goals in a 13-minute stretch starting with Schuler’s tally in the 35th that tied it 1-1.
“We lost our composure for sure,” Timbers captain Will Johnson said. “I don’t know if it’s tired legs or mentally being tired, but we made some mistakes that cost us some goals.”
Johnson put the Timbers on the scoreboard in the 14th minute and Frederic Piquionne closed the scoring in stoppage time.
“Last goal was huge.” Timbers coach Caleb Porter said of Piquionne’s header inside the final 10 seconds. “That was big because we’ve come back from two goals quite a bit this year, actually.
“If we get that first goal (in the second leg) we’re going to make this thing interesting. There’s no doubt about it. Every guy in our locker room, the coaching staff, we all believe that we can turn this around and win the series.”
Salt Lake extended its unbeaten streak over Portland to nine games. The Timbers have not beaten RSL since the first meeting in the series on April 30, 2011.
The Timbers’ loss snapped a 10 game unbeaten streak, stretching back to a 4-2 loss to Salt Lake on Aug. 30.
On Johnson’s opening goal, the Timbers’ midfielder sent a free kick over the defensive wall and threaded the ball inside the far post, denying Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando any chance to get to it in time.
“Got the first goal, and then for whatever reason we just stopped playing,” Timbers coach Caleb Porter said. “We dropped off far too much, let them have the ball and come at us. You could start to feel it coming, the (first RSL) goal. I wasn’t surprised when they scored” because we sat back too much.
Schuler tied it 21 minutes later as Morales lobbed a corner kick high into the air toward the defender. Schuler outjumped everyone around him to snag the ball and headed it past Portland goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.
A defensive mistake helped Salt Lake take the lead in the 41st. Mamadou Danso made an errant back pass under pressure from Findley and the ball squirted loose. Findley sprinted past Danso to collect the ball and easily flicked it around Ricketts as he came off the line.
“I didn’t think we defended very well tonight,” Porter said. “The last 10 games the one thing we’ve done really well is we’ve played well defensively. It’s not just the backs, it’s the entire team and I thought our pressure again, after the first goal wasn’t really what we’re capable of.”
In the second half, Findley latched onto a through ball and sent a cross into Sandoval, who quickly put it home for his first career playoff goal in the 48th.
Morales made it 4-1 in the 82nd. Ricketts made an impressive save moments earlier, leaping in the air and denying a header from Luis Gil at the far post. It led to a corner kick and Joao Plata fed the ball to Morales on a run to the far post. He lunged forward and headed the ball past Ricketts in the middle of the net.
REAL SALT LAKE 4, TIMBERS 2
Portland 1 1–2
Real Salt Lake 2 2–4
First half–1, Portland, Johnson 11, 14th minute. 2, Real Salt Lake, Schuler 2 (Morales), 35th. 3, Real Salt Lake, Findley 7, 41st.
Second half–4, Real Salt Lake, Sandoval 4 (Beltran, Morales), 48th. 5, Real Salt Lake, Morales 9 (Plata), 82nd. 6, Portland, Piquionne 2 (Johnson), 90th+.
Goalies–Portland, Donovan Ricketts; Real Salt Lake, Nick Rimando.
Yellow Cards–Valencia, Portland, 90th.
Referee–Armando Villarreal. Assistant Referees_George Gansner. Frank Anderson. 4th Official–Baldomero Toledo.
Portland–Donovan Ricketts, Pa-Modou Kah, Rodney Wallace (Frederic Piquionne, 75th), Michael Harrington, Mamadou Danso, Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe, Will Johnson, Jack Jewsbury, Diego Valeri (Kalif Alhassan, 53rd), Ryan Johnson (Jose Valencia, 59th).
Real Salt Lake–Nick Rimando, Chris Schuler, Tony Beltran, Chris Wingert (Lovel Palmer, 33rd), Nat Borchers, Luis Gil, Kyle Beckerman, Sebastian Velasquez, Javier Morales (Ned Grabavoy, 86th), Devon Sandoval, Robbie Findley (Joao Plata, 66th).