This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Sandy • Rio Tinto Stadium had become a safe haven for the reigning champions of Major League Soccer.
Entering Saturday night's Western Conference clash, the Portland Timbers rolled into Sandy as the only club in league history to beat Real Salt Lake three consecutive times in Utah.
RSL ensured the streak stopped there. Despite seeing its first-half lead evaporate, a penalty kick in the second half by Yura Movsisyan helped RSL earn a 2-2 draw against the Timbers.
The tie keeps RSL (7-4-3, 24 points) unbeaten at home.
RSL coach Jeff Cassar chose to trot out a first-team lineup after several starters went 120 minutes in the club's U.S. Open Cup victory against the Wilmington Hammerheads on Tuesday night. In the first league match in nearly two months at home, RSL at times look gassed, but responded when Movsisyan was fouled in the 70th minute by Portland defender Jermaine Taylor. Movsisyan buried the penalty kick to his left, underneath the outstretched arms of Timbers goalkeeper Jake Gleeson.
"I think it was an entertaining game, and I think on a different night we come away with three points. But at the end of the day, probably a tie was the right score," Cassar said.
A slight deviation from the usual game plan helped RSL take an early 1-0 lead.
Joao Plata has taken the lion share of corner kicks for RSL in 2016. But in the 17th minute, rather than Plata, it was Javier Morales who sliced the corner kick across the sea of players in the box. The ball drifted to the back post where Burrito Martinez waited. The Argentine forward skied over Portland defender Zarek Valentin and finished it cooly for his fifth goal of 2016 and fourth in RSL's past four matches in all competitions.
But once the Timbers were put in a hole, the defending MLS Cup champions responded.
A familiar thorn in the side of RSL resurfaced in the 29th minute. Timbers striker Fanendo Adi got position on RSL center back Justen Glad after a quick turnover in the midfield. Taylor threaded a perfect pass to Adi, who outmuscled Glad and beat Nick Rimando, who had come off his line.
The equalizing goal was Adi's six in his past seven regular-season matches against RSL.
"I think [Portland] didn't do much," Morales said. "It was just our mistakes."
Portland took a 2-1 lead in the 44th minute on a goal by Timbers winger Lucas Melano. Diego Valeri found himself alone and unmarked on a free run into the box before firing a left-footed shot that bounced off the far post. Melanie was there waiting as he curled the ball by Rimando.
"I thought we put them on their back foot a lot and then after we scored, we went away from it," Casar said. "Everything we were doing that was making us successful, we started to come narrow and play narrow and turn the ball over in poor areas."
Martinez had his shot at equalizing in the 60th minute after a scramble left Gleeson off his line. Gleeson couldn't clear a poor pass back to him once the hustle of Movsisyan disrupted his attempt. The ball rolled out to a wide-open Martinez about 25 yards from goal, but his chip attempt sailed high.
Movsisyan had his shot at a game-winner four minutes after he put RSL level, but his left-footed curling shot outside the box was pushed wide on a full-extension save by Gleeson. Portland substitute Darren Mattocks scored what would've been the game-winner for the Timbers in the 86th minute, but the winger was whistled offside.
"For sure Mattocks was onside," said Portland coach Caleb Porter. "[Chris] Wingert held him on, so we should've won the game."
R Yura Movsisyan draws penalty kick and converts in the 70th minute to equalize at 2.
• Burrito Martinez scored his fourth goal in RSL's past five matches across all competitions.
• RSL has a quick turnaround as it hosts New York Red Bulls on Wednesday night.