Real Salt Lake vs. Portland Timbers report card: MLS Western Conference Finals, leg 1

Published: Monday, Nov. 11 2013 12:21 a.m. MST

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Tactics: Jason Kreis learned from the first leg of the semifinals the importance of his diamond midfield, which he returned to the pitch once again Sunday night. Ned Grabavoy was on the bench resting a pulled hamstring, so Kreis started Thursday night’s hero Sebastian Velasquez for the second straight time at left mid. Luis Gil was on the right and Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales in their usual spots at the back and front of the diamond respectively.

Sebastian Velasquez is not only fast becoming a fan favorite, he’s learning how to manage a game. His energy has never been in question, but Velasquez can be known to overplay. Sunday night he exhibited patience and excellent field vision in his second start of the playoffs.

Luis Gil gave Jason Kreis everything he could have asked for from the young midfielder. Gil played the full 90 minutes and was dangerous on offense, sneaking into the box on several occasions with excellent touch on the ball. His defense wasn’t bad either.

Javier Morales did it all Sunday night. In addition to playing field general to perfection, he earned a second-assist along with Robbie Findley on Devon Sandoval’s goal as well as an unexpected 81st minute goal off a diving header when Joao Plata sent a perfect near-post corner kick to a tightly marked Morales who was able to shed his man and dive in for the goal.

Kyle Beckerman had acres of space in front of his defensive line Sunday night, where he was flawless transitioning the ball into the attack on a night when Portland’s aggressive mindset gave RSL numerous opportunities to counterattack. His delivery in the 41st minute may not have earned an assist when Robbie Findley scored, but it was as important in generating RSL’s second goal as Findley’s creativity.

Ned Grabavoy (sub '86) came on to spell Javier Morales, guard against the RSL playmaker getting injured in the final minutes, and to try out his recently injured hamstring.

Grade: A
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Chandler, AZ

You list Lovel Palmer as starting in place of Beltran and as subbing in for Wingert. Which is it?

La Furia Roja


Good catch. Palmer didn't start, it was Beltran from the beginning and I think he played really well. Also, as great a finisher as Sabo is I really like Devon's hustle back on defense and I think he fits better with the overall team concept. He's not near the finisher, but he's also not near the Diva that Sabo is. Great game, very entertaining. A two-week delay between leg 1 and leg 2 is soooo painful.

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