SANDY — Real Salt Lake secured the No. 3 seed it wanted Saturday night, but not in the manner it had hoped.
RSL's back line had a momentary lapse in stoppage time allowing Portland to score a late equalizer at Rio Tinto Stadium as the visiting Timbers salvaged a 1-1 draw on the final day of the MLS regular season.
The result was still good enough to clinch the West's No. 3 seed as FC Dallas laid an egg in San Jose, losing 4-2.
"Obviously very, very disappointed in the result and the finish of the game cause I thought we'd done so many good things to that point. It's that time of year were it comes down to split-second decisions, a little bit of lapse of focus there at the end and we don't get the result that we wanted. Perhaps that will be a good lesson for us going into the playoffs," said RSL coach Jason Kreis.
RSL opens the playoffs at home next Saturday against West No. 2 seed Seattle in the first of two games. The second game will be at Seattle on Wednesday, Nov. 2.
"Given everything that went on, a third-place finish at this point is respectable with a good chance at an MLS run," said Will Johnson.
Seattle and Real Salt Lake split the season series, with each team picking up a 2-1 road victory.
In front of a sellout crowd of 20,378, RSL had a very bright start to the match. It was the better team throughout the match, particularly in the first half when it outshot Portland 11-7 and seemed very comfortable on the ball. That possession element to RSL's attack has been missing for the better of a month, but there were positive signs of it returning against the Timbers.
Despite the great start, the match remained scoreless and Kreis wondered if his team could keep up the intensity.
"Sometimes you need to reward yourself to say all this work you've done was worth it," said Kreis.
RSL eventually got on the board very late in the first half.
Alvaro Saborio opened the scoring just four seconds before first half stoppage time as he chipped a shot over Portland charging keeper Troy Perkins for the 1-0 lead. Saborio had slipped in behind defender Futty Danso to track down a lofted through ball from Fabian Espindola, and Perkins came off his line to try and win the ball before Saborio.
The goal was Saborio's 11th of the season, good enough for RSL's golden boot award as he edged Espindola who finished the year with 10 goals.
Right after the goal, Saborio made a 40-yard sprint to midfield to hug Espindola.
Early in the second half Portland missed a great opportunity to equalize when Jack Jewsbury shanked a penalty kick off the cross bar after Chris Wingert was whistled for an unintentional hand ball in the box. The penalty was the seventh faced by Nick Rimando this year, but opponents have only converted five of the seven.
Real Salt Lake had a great opportunity to put the game away in the 89th minute, but Saborio banged a shot off the post and Arturo Alvarez couldn't corral the rebound.
That missed opportunity proved to be huge as Portland equalized in stoppage time as Danso redirected a cross from substitute Brian Umony into the empty goal.
"Playoffs are right around the corner, and if that happens in the playoffs it will cost us," said Nick Rimando, who was denied a shutout on his own bobblehead night. Everybody was happy with the way we played, I think we started well, the second half we played well, I think we dominated the game. That's soccer, one play goes and you end up throwing some points away."
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