Valeri’s goal gives Portland a 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Diego Valeri scored in the 16th minute and the Portland Timbers held on to snap a two-game losing streak with a 1-0 victory over Real Salt Lake on Saturday night.
The Timbers improved to 12-11-4 as they continue to jockey for a spot in the postseason. Portland remains just outside of the playoff picture with seven games remaining.
Real Salt Lake (13-11-4) hasn’t won in Portland since 2017.
“I think in soccer if you score first you have a big advantage to win the game. If you can do that, you have to try to manage the game with more calm. And I think we did that — even without the ball, they possessed a lot of the ball,” Valeri said.
The Timbers lost 2-1 at home last weekend to Cascadia Cup rival Seattle. Portland hadn’t lost consecutive games at home since last season.
They are in the midst of a 10-game homestand at Providence Park, a result of a 12-game road trip to start the season while the stadium was renovated.
“We needed these three points,” Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said. “These three points keep us closer in this difficult table — everybody’s fighting to survive, everybody’s fighting to make the playoffs. And today it was huge for us to get this win.”
RSL won four of its last five games and was coming off a 2-0 victory over Colorado last weekend. Salt Lake has moved up to second in the Western Conference standings despite the Aug. 11 dismissal of coach Mike Petke.
Petke’s contract was terminated after he made derogatory comments toward officials following RSL’s loss to Tigres UANL in a Leagues Cup match. Assistant Freddy Juarez is leading the team through the rest of the season.
“I think we clearly deserved something out if it, at minimal a tie. That’s just how games go,” Juarez said. “We created more than enough chances, and more than enough good looks, and just didn’t score. And that’s the way games sometimes go.”
The Timbers were limited because of injuries and were without Larrys Mabiala (hamstring) and Julio Cascante (thigh), Modou Jadama (foot), Cristhian Paredes (upper Leg) and Zarek Valentin (upper leg). Because of all the absences, Portland did not list one true defender among its available substitutes.
Veteran goalkeeper Nick Rimando dove but couldn’t reach Valeri’s blast from the top of the box. After his goal, Valeri blew a kiss to fans in the stands who waved the flag of his native Argentina. It was Valeri’s eighth goal of the season. He also has 15 assists.
“We are feeling good. Today we all helped to win the game. We had a lot of sacrifice and that’s why we are happy,” Valeri said.
There was a scary moment in the 75th minute when Jeremy Ebobisse collided with Rimando, who had to be attended to by trainers but stayed in the game. Just minutes earlier, Rimando had bumped away a shot from Brian Fernandez, Portland’s top scorer.
Portland’s Renzo Zambrano was shown a red card in stoppage time after a heated exchange with the referee, but Portland goalkeeper Steve Clark dove to stop Albert Rusnack’s dangerous free kick from the top of the box.
The Timbers Army supporters group waved flags with the Iron Front symbol in the 33rd minute, in protest of a new MLS policy that bans political signs and banners at matches. It was the second straight protest of the policy: The Timbers Army remained silent through the first 33 minutes against the Sounders.
The Iron Front symbol, which is three arrows pointed down and to the left, was used by a paramilitary organization that resisted the Nazi party in Germany in the 1930s. It has recently been associated with antifa, a loosely organized group of antifascists.