The Portland Timbers lost 3-1 on Decision Day to Real Salt Lake. The Timbers entered the match needing a draw or better in order to secure a playoff spot. For Real Salt Lake, a regulation win was required in order to qualify for the postseason.
The Portland Timbers were feeling the pressure right from kickoff at America First Field. Just two minutes into the match, Real Salt Lake had a chance to score. However, an offsides call denied them the opportunity to take the lead. Then at 7:55, Sergio Córdova received a pass to top of the box. However, his low shot would roll wide of the net.
Eventually, this early pressure from Real Salt Lake would result in a goal. At 18:18 Jefferson Savarino would find space and move past a Timbers defender. From top of the box, Savarino’s shot towards the far post would be just out of the reach of Portland goalkeeper Aljaz Ivacic. Real Salt Lake would take the lead, 1-0.
Real Salt Lake had the vast majority of time of possession in the first half, and it was paying dividends. At 47:47, Jefferson Savarino and Bryan Oviedo combined on a give and go passing play. The setup would allow Oviedo to find Rubio Méndez in close quarters. Méndez’s shot deflected off a defenseman’s foot, and find the back of the net. Méndez’s first goal in 32 games would put Real Salt Lake up 2-0.
In the second half, Portland would look for ways to respond. One of the first quality chances the Timbers had was courtesy of Yimmi Chara. AT 68:08 Yimmi Chara’s strike on a one timer from in close would ricochet off the post to the goalie’s left. However, Portland would come up empty handed.
Another chance for Portland would arise at 79:21. Dairon Asprilla nearly connected with Jaroslaw Niezgoda on the doorstep to the net. However, Niezgoda couldn’t reach the low cross in time, and Real Salt Lake would clear the ball away.
Unfortunately for Portland, things would go from bad to worse. At 81:56, Bode Hidalgo would dish the ball towards the goal line for Jasper Löffelsend to corral. Löffelsend would center the ball right back to Hidalgo, who’s shot would scream past Ivacic’s right and find the back of the net. Real Salt Lake would take a 3-0 lead.
Portland would find one goal for the road in the 87th minute. Asprilla would intercept a clear from Real Salt Lake, and rip a shot from inside the penalty arch. Asprilla’s shot would deflect off the leg of a defender, and catch Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Zac MacMath shifting the wrong direction. Portland would narrow the deficit back down to two goals.
However, stoppage time would not be long enough for Portland, and the final score would be 3-1. After the loss, Head Coach Giovanni Savarese said, “I’m just proud always of every player that gives everything for the organization, for the shirt, for the team, for the coaching staff, for the fans especially.” Portland will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2016, falling short by one point. They will have to wait until next year to try their hand at earning the MLS Cup.