Sandy • The sky's the limit.
When Real Salt Lake plays as it did during the second half of its 3-0 victory against Portland on Saturday, it seems as if nothing is impossible.
Still stinging from three consecutive losses and a draw in its past four games, RSL broke out of a scoring drought with a vengeance, thanks to a pair of world-class goals within minutes of each other from Alvaro Saborio.
"It was a good game for us," RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman said. "We were able to control the game for a full 90 minutes. We're trying to stay real focused on not giving any goals away easily. We knew the goals would come eventually and tonight they did."
For good measure, the Costa Rican converted a penalty kick in the 75th minute for his hat trick and 10th goal of the season.
"The first one was really special, wasn't it?" RSL coach Jason Kreis said about Saborio's header. "The way he got up and headed it across the goal, the whole face of the goal and it hits the post and goes in."
And suddenly, after breaking a drought of 251 minutes, RSL (11-6-3) was flying around, energized and looking once again like one of the elite teams of Major League Soccer.
"We made it very clear to our players that we wanted to get back to the basics and establish a foundation," Kreis said. "I think we did that extremely well Wednesday night by not allowing them to score against us, and then put it all together tonight."
Meanwhile, after Real set Portland back with its quick strikes, the Timbers (5-8-4) were reduced to physical play that bordered on dirty.
Overall, the Timbers collected six of seven yellows, as well as a red card for a handball on the goal line by Portland's Diego Chara. That led to Saborio's penalty kick.
To be fair, with one exception, throughout its troubles in recent weeks, Real Salt Lake has been the best team. Only in the 2-0 loss at Columbus, where power outages and weather delays played as big a role as the Crew, did RSL not play near its best.
Thanks to its own defensive mistakes, RSL outplayed Los Angeles and San Jose but lost to both.
For a while, it appeared that Saturday's game against Portland would turn into a rerun of Wednesday's scoreless draw against Seattle.
Despite dominating possession and attacking chances, Real Salt Lake was unable to break into the scoring column during a 0-0 first half of Saturday's MLS match at Rio Tinto Stadium.
"Happy," Saborio exclaimed. "First, we needed the win. Second, for my hat trick. We worked hard and today we got some goals."
Until falling behind, the Timbers were content to clog the midfield and wait for a counterattack.
Will Johnson offered up RSL's first good chance with a 30-yard blast in the 19th minute. The shot stretched Portland goalkeeper Troy Perkins, who had to punch the shot attempt over the bar.
In the 60th minute, Saborio finally headed a pass from Kyle Beckerman into the Timbers' goal. Two minutes later, a once-frustrated Saborio finished another header, this time a highlight reel special.
Saborio was so close to scoring in the first half.
"I just told him, 'Look, the next one, the next one's yours,' and sure enough, once he got a little sniff, he buried it," Beckerman said.